Our students have been told time and again that ‘India is an ancient land’ with a ‘rich history’. In fact, they have heard these phrases so often that their eyes glaze over and they simply stop listening. Apart from occasional visits to monuments (usually in the hot summer sun with a large group of relatives they barely know), most children rarely look at their surroundings as sites for learning history. To tell the truth, many of us teachers rarely look outside the history book, or the museum, or the conventional historical monument, for traces of living history around us.
History, as we know, is not just about learning about people and events and memorising long lists of names and dates. It’s also about learning how we study the past, and different ways of understanding the past and its relation to the present. The value of historiography goes beyond the study of history itself. It provides students with skills that come into use in other subjects as well, as it fosters a creative yet analytical approach to dealing with evidence of various kinds – narrative, documentary, archaeological, architectural, etc. Beyond dealing with evidence, it shows students how an argument can be built up in a logical and systematic fashion, through language, to convince readers that something is, indeed, a record of the past.