History 2129/EnvS 2449 Reading Guide

Thinking historically and thinking about Maine

  • Robert Blackey, et al., Teaching Innovations Forum:  “Thinking Historically in the Classroom,” Perspectives: American Historical Association Newsletter 33.7 (October 1995) , 1, 4, 23-37.  Notes
  • Alan Taylor, “Center and Peripheries: Locating Maine’s History,” Maine History 39:1 (Spring 2000): 3-16.  (e-reserve)
  • Edwin H. Churchill, “Evolution of Maine Place Names,” Maine Historical Society Quarterly 29.2 (1989), 66-90.  (e-reserve)
  • document: W.H. Doughty, Orr's Island Souvenir: Historical Sketch of Orr's Island, with Landscape Descriptions (1899).  (HL SCA linkNote: if time is short, read Doughty's Introduction (3-4), the sections on the Orr Family (7-10), the Wilson Family (17-19), "Biles" and David Orrs Cove (30-32), the portion of his tour, "Around Orr's Island in Six Hours," which describes the northern section of the Island (begin at the second paragraph of 43-47), and the section on "Orrs Island in Winter" (50-51).


  • In his introduction, Blackey explains that the “contributors to this forum were asked to define and describe what thinking historically means, particularly with regard to their students, and then to explain, with the use of examples, how they teach and train their students accordingly.” They produced ten distinctive yet complimentary essays.
  • Which arguments strike you as most familiar? most reasonable? most helpful? most surprising or intriguing?
  • With which assertions did you struggle or disagree or object?  Why?
  • Alan Taylor is both a terrific story-teller and a Pulitzer Prize winning historian. How does he present his account of George Ulmer’s efforts to carry out his commission as Colonel in command of volunteer troops at Eastport?  How did Ulmer first envision his task in 1812, and how did his perspective and assessment change by 1813?
  • What analysis of the historical event and circumstances does Taylor offer?
  • According to Taylor, what lessons for Maine historians does this account hold?
  • Edwin Churchill examines the distribution of Native American, English and French place names in Maine and proposes a series of general place-name patterns.
  • According to Churchill, what do these patterns suggest about the geographical and cultural evolution/history of Maine settlements and communities—especially as these shift from Native American to predominantly European (English and French)?
  • Which of his interpretations of the patterns of evidence most intrigued you? About which interpretations were you most skeptical?
  • Can we develop a more specifically environmental interpretation from the patterns of evidence he presents?
  • In 1899, for whom did W.H. Doughty write his souvenir pamphlet?  Why did he state so clearly the object of advertising to the “traveling” public Orrs Island as a summer resort?
  • What did he think would interest, intrigue, inspire potential travelers, boarders, and cottagers?
  • How did he present and describe Orrs Island?  What did he emphasize and detail?  Why? What might he have downplayed or omitted?
  • What did Doughty mean by “historical sketch”?  What did he actually present, and how did those accounts serve his purpose?
  • How might you use this document in a research project?  What kind of evidence does it offer?  Where should you be cautious about taking his account at face value?