I can’t remember, now, what first drew me to history, but I have always loved telling stories. When I discovered that places had stories just as people did, I was hooked. I have never approached history in a traditional manner. For me, it has always been about finding understanding, sometimes in the big processes and moments of schoolbook history, but also in the little things—the construction of a dress, the hand-sawed beams of a barn, the charm for keeping fairies away from the butter. With a background in anthropology and folklore as well as history, I look to all sorts of places for evidence of the past. And, no matter where I go, I am always looking for stories.
Traveling and exploring have always been a big part of my life, but I got to do a lot more of it once I started my graduate education. I received my M.A. in Irish Studies from the National University of Ireland, Galway and my Ph.D. in American and Atlantic History from the University of Notre Dame. I have studied privateer sailors during the War of 1812, wise women figures in the East of Ireland, and exiled revolutionaries in the Early American Republic. For research, I have traveled extensively through both Europe and America, and throughout my studies, I have continued to pursue my love of all things creative, including photography. As I wrapped up my dissertation project, I realized that there was so much about being a historian that I didn’t want to leave behind, no matter where my career ended up taking me.
The idea for this blog took shape as I thought further about what history—and, specifically, teaching history—means to me. I wanted a space where I could explore different ways of doing history that would have an impact, not only in a classroom environment, but on anyone interested in studying history or learning about the past. Within its pages, I hope to share some of my experiences doing history and seeking out stories over the years, all with an eye towards inspiring others to attempt similar projects.
‘Reflections’ is about traveling and exploring the importance of place in history as well as people and processes. These posts are my place to share some of the stories that I have discovered, and the great lengths to which I have sometimes gone—along with the happy accidents—in order to find them. If I had a “theory” of doing history, this would be it—inclusive and experiential. Eat the food, drink the wine, and explore the streets in between trips to the archives and libraries!
‘The Archives’ section of the blog shares curated collections of primary sources ready for use in a classroom or for perusal by a curious reader. Some posts address particular topics or themes, while others highlight an exceptional source. Where possible, I will share other resources for related topics and point you towards other useful readings or archives.
‘Crafting History’ is all about experiencing the past for ourselves—trying out historical recipes, craft projects or older methods of doing familiar things. Sometimes I will share step-by-step instructions for particular projects or highlight the work of others as they pursue projects of their own.
All of these things—the travel, the sources, and the experiences—help us better understand the past, and have more fun along the way! I hope you enjoy the ideas and inspiration within these pages, but most of all, I hope you learn to love exploring the past and finding stories of your own.
Erin Marie Kraus