Historical Imagination

Historical Imagination sees and imagines scenes and details which bring people and stories to life and which—as far as one could tell—agree with reality. It takes us into the story which is our own. It makes our story--God's story--Salvation History--vividly significant.

Here are some sample questions to pique the historical imagination. Try one or assign one. I wrote them for younger students.

  • “Imagine the Scene”: choose a particular event and use your imagination to describe the scene. In your mind’s eye, what would it have been like to have been there? What was the weather like? How cold or hot out? What time of day? Indoors or outdoors? What are people wearing? If filmed, what kind of music would fit this scene?
  • “What if this had not happened?”: choose a particular event and consider what might have been different if so-and-so had not lived or if so-and-so had acted differently. What would be different in the immediate century? Who would be affected? Would anything be different now? How important were so-and-so’s choices? Would the same kind of events have come about whether or not so-and-so lived?
  • “Funeral speech” and “Epithet”: consider that you must speak at the funeral of some historical figure. What would you say—praise or blame? How would you sum up his life? What would you recommend as a fitting phrase to put on the tombstone?
  • “Who is ____________?”: Choose a particular historical figure and write a short summary of his life, including the pertinent details of date, location, and major deeds (including when, where, how, with whom, why, important circumstances, and effects.)
  • “A Letter”: choose a particular historical figure or event. Use your historical imagination to write a letter that might have been composed by one of these figures or by someone (real or made-up) who experienced these events.
  • “A Speech or Toast”: choose a particular historical figure we have studied. Imagine him at some great occasion and compose a speech or toast that he would make, something that expresses his personality, what he loved or stood for, what he would say if put in the spotlight.
  • “Compare & Contrast”: choose some historical event/person and compare to a historical event/person from earlier history or a current event/person (from newspaper, internet, etc.) For example, compare two armed conflicts. Compare two treaties. Compare two kinds of art. Do people say the same kind of things or different? Do they react the same way or differently? Do they act the same way or differently? Do they care about the same things or different?

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