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Historical Thinking, Historical Imagination, and Imagined History

August 8, 2016

I love the distinction underscored in this HNN piece, by Yoav Tenembaum, between reality-directed and fantasy-directed imagination. I have always believed that imagination is an important historical thinking skill. I subsumed it under “storytelling” in my own teaching document (i.e. The 12 Cs).

I appreciate Tenembaum’s reflection, it could include a third category: history-directed fantasy. This is what JRR Tolkien constructed with his Lord of the Rings works. He favored “history real or imagined.” He funneled his imagination into an historical construction.

In sum, imagination is most definitely a crucial theme of historical thinking. And “imagined history,” or history-directed fantasy, might be another outlet to teach and learn good historical thinking, even though it’s not reality-directed. – TL

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