HIST 6001 Historical Methods and Interpretation

Fall 2008

How to Use the Internet for Historical Research

Dr. Deborah Vess

Class exercises

1. Reliability Issues

Class Exercise: Trace the source of this quotation using google.com. (There may be a google search box right on your browser page -- try looking in the top left corner. If so, you will not have go to another page.) Holding the left side of the mouse down, highlight a sentence or two from the quotation below. Then hold down the control and C keys at the same time. You have now copied the text. Paste it into the google box by clicking in the box, then hold down the control and V keys at the same time. The text should appear. Be sure to put quotations marks around the text in the google box. (Why is this important?)


"Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind.

And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so.

How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar."


2. Plagiarism

Class Exercise: Please go to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

Go to the "Historical Arthur" link and click on it. When you get to that page, read the text, and then type the following excerpt from it into the google.com search box:

One of the questions that has occupied those interested in King Arthur is whether or not he is a historic figure.

On how many sites do you find this quotation?
Try some other sentences from this page and see what happens. Who is the author of each page you find and what are their credentials? Which site would be the original source of this quotation or any of the other quotations that you searched? When is it considered plagiarism to use the words of someone else and when is it not? Is the King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table site plagiarized? Why or why not?

3. Dot Coms

Class exercise: Go to Celtic Twilight:

What is the purpose of the site? What is its context? How credible is it? How credible are the author's credentials? Given the author's credentials, how reliable do you think the sources are?


4. Translation Issues

Celtic Twilight

Internet Medieval Sourcebook


5. Other Collections of Primary Sources Online and Selected Exercises

Electronic Corpus of Sumerian Literature

Benlich's Word List

Duke Papyrus Archives

Bible Gateway

*Using the Bible Gateway, do an advanced search. Enter the keyword "woman" and see what results are returned. Use at least two different translations. Are the results different for different translations? Limit your search in the box at the bottom right of the screen to the "Books of Moses." How are the results different?

*Using the Bible Gateway, search for a phrase. Enter "eye for eye" and see what results are returned. Try it with and without the quotations marks. Try it also by setting the search engine to "match exact phrase" and then to "match any word." How are the results different?


Online Castato of 1427 from Florence

*Type in the name "Medici" and see what results are returned. What can we learn from this database?

Online Tratte of Office Holders 1282-1532

*Type in the name "Machiavelli" and see what results are returned. What can we learn from this database?


Internet Classics Archive

Plague and Public Health in Europe


6. Archaeological Sites

Pilgrimage to Abydos

Dr. V's Virtual Tours of Medieval Monasteries


7. Maps

Odden's Bookmarks

Perry-Castaneda Map Collection at the University of Texas

*Find historical maps of the Middle East around the time of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. Name at least two mandates created out of the Ottoman Empire and find maps that show their boundaries.

8. Royal Genealogies

Find Queen Victoria's line. Whom did her eldest daughter Princess Vicky marry? Whom did her eldest son, later Edward VII marry? When did the family name change to Windsor and why? Find at least three other royal houses that Queen Victoria's line was connected to.

9. Multimedia collections

The Valley of the Shadow
Exercise: Search war years collection and enter your last name. If nothing comes up, try another surname you are familiar with. Then attempt to find other records available, including census and tax records, letters, regimental records, and other sources.

Other sites:

Library of Congress American Memory

*In the Library of Congress American Memory site, do a search for"Emancipation Proclamation"and see what is available. Then do a wider search for"slavery."

Presidential Libraries

*In the Presidential Libraries site, explore the LBJ library. What sorts of audio materials are available? Are there transcripts, and are there any quality issues with either? Do a search for materials on the Vietnam War and see what you can find.

*In the Bush Presidential library, search for "Saddam Hussein." What is available? What issues might limit resources that are available from this site and other Presidential libraries?

Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation

Cyber Library of the Holocaust

Center for History and New Media (George Mason University)

Trenches on the Web (World War I)

New Deal Network

You may want to browse through my World Civ Virtual Library for other resources. There are a virtual endless number of sites on the web now that are very useful for historical research.