English Writing

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Creative Historical Research

Some of the reading we’ve done recently has highlighted the different roles that history and culture can play in creative writing. The following writing exercise will invite you to explore and share your own interests and connections to history and culture.

First, conduct some research on a historical event that interests you. The event you choose could be just about anything, from a natural disaster to the invention of tube socks to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall to the history of the spork. Try to use reputable, authoritative resources as much as possible. The purpose of your research is to explore and educate yourself on the event, and discover things about it that you didn’t know before, so as you research your event, follow your natural curiosity and see where it takes you.

Second, develop 1-3 good questions about your historical event. The questions should be things you’re curious to know, but that your research doesn’t answer. For example, your questions might about one of the people involved in your event, asking what s/he thought, or why s/he acted the way s/he did. Or your questions might ask about what-if scenarios and their impact on history.

Third, write a brief summary of your historical event and your questions. Describe:

  1. the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your event,
  2. the impact your event had on the people involved, or on the people/places after the event, and
  3. your questions about the event.

You can read a finished example of this assignment at the end of this below.

Fourth, post the results of step 3 to the “Historical Research Summary” forum topic in the “Historical Research Summary exercise” forum. You do not need to respond to your classmates’ messages, though you are encouraged to do so. Not responding to a classmates’ message will not hurt your forum participation grade. Responding can help your grade, though, as it shows me that you’re engaged in the course activities.

This exercise is worth 10 points of your Discussion Participation grade. To earn all 10 points, simply follow through on all of the requirements described above, and adhere to good netiquette.

Post your writing to the “Historical Research Summary” discussion by the assigned due date. Please cut and paste your exercise into the body of your forum post, rather than attaching a document.

Historical Summary Example: The Battle of Tours

The Battle of Tours is a battle that was fought in the year 732. The battle was fought between the Franks led by Charles Martel and the Moors of the Umayyad Caliphate led by Rahman Al Ghafiqi. At the time of the battle, the Moors owned the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and wanted to expand their territory and the religion of Islam. The area that followed the Iberian Peninsula was the land owned by the Franks and then independent Aquitaine. The exact location of the battle is unknown due to the lack of primary sources on the topic but it is believed to have been fought somewhere between the village of Tours and the village of Poitiers in what today is central France. The battle ended in a decisive and impressive victory by the Franks as they defeated the estimated 80,000 Moors with their estimated 30,000 troops, killed Rahman Al Ghafiqi, and did all this without cavalry. The Frankish troops stood their ground and did not break the line, thus defeating the Moorish cavalry and ultimately the battle. The battle proved to be a turning point in the history of Europe as it helped eliminate the threat of Islam and it established a strong French presence in Western Europe. The outcome of the battle allowed the Franks to flourish as a nation, although the life of a peasant would not have changed much had the Moors won. After the Battle, Charles Martel secured the throne and established the Carolingian dynasty, which includes Martel’s grandson Charlemagne, while the Moors were driven out of Frankish lands back to the Iberian Peninsula, which they eventually lost. The Battle of Tours could have been a disaster for western culture and civilization. Has the Franks not won, the Moors could have easily conquered the rest of Europe. Christianity would not have been the predominant religion. The crusades and Christopher Columbus’ rediscovery of America would not have happen. France would not be the nation it is today. The United States could have not existed and W.W.I. and W.W.II. could have not happened. These are just some possibilities to the question of what could have been some outcomes had the moors won the Battle of Tours.

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