I always tell my students that to best understand history, it is imperative to attempt to walk in the shoes of those who preceded us; to better understand an unfamiliar place or culture, attempt to walk in the shoes of others. And history is not a science insofar as historians can recreate a context like a scientist can recreate conditions for an experiment. In many ways, history is highly educated guessing based on documentary evidence and the historian's imagination.
So, what does it look like if one walk's in the shoes of a historical figure--literally?
Meet A.J. Jacobs. (Check out his blog here.) He's a journalist, an author, and an innovator--I call him a journalistic sociologist. He applies himself to his craft in inventive, interesting ways.
His latest project involved him taking the moral imperatives and prescriptions for living from Bible literally. The result is a book titled The Year of Living Biblically. Read and listen to an excerpt here. Read a review of the book here.
As you listen and you read--and perhaps read the book itself--think about this experiment in terms of what you can learn about history from it.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: To what extent did Jacobs live in the shoes of those in the Bible who preceded him? What did he learn? What was most transformative, interesting, and/or challenging? Could you ever see yourself conducting this kind of experiment?
And so an application question for my students: If you could walk in the shoes of a historical figure in American history, whose shoes would you try on and why? What do you suppose you might learn? Why?
Use your imagination and answer in the comments section.
[Photo credit here.]