Welcome to the first post of Musings of a Historian. Every Friday (here’s hoping!), I’m going to try and post a history-related topic. After all, I do love history.
This week’s article titled “Empty trash. Buy milk. Forge history” looks at detailed household lists developed in Germany. From 1600s to 1800s, Germans from two towns in the Wuttemberg region created detailed lists of their household goods. This gives historians a great opportunity to look at the economic history and development of a particular German area.
The project to process and compute these lists into quantifiable data thereby leading to interpretation started with Dr. Sheilagh Ogilvie at the University of Cambridge. She first stumbled on these lists when she was a graduate student. From looking at the lists, she realized she had a real historical gem on her hands.
This got me thinking of all of the things I come across as an emerging archivist helping history teachers while working at a state archives. With Teaching American History, I’m the only archivist on staff and, as such, I often accompany the reference archivist as he gives tours of the stacks. During these tours, he shows teachers such things as the original Ordinance of Secession, the Lords’ Prioprietors contract (establishing South Carolina), South Carolina’s copy of the Bill of Rights, etc. The list goes on and on.
Something I believe that is a dissertation waiting to happen are school reports from the different counties in South Carolina. During Reconstruction and the establishment of some semblance of an education system, teachers had to give reports. These reports contain information about how many students they taught, their race, how many days they attended school, and the teachers pay.
The teacher’s salary was calculated according to how many students they taught and how many days out of the year they taught. It’s interesting the more students a teacher taught the more they got paid. I think this would be a great social history of South Carolina. Most of the South Carolina counties submitted these reports.
Through these reports, one could determine when the shift occurred as more children attended school regularly as well as the shift from rural or more urban areas. Meaning, education was managed around farming. Children couldn’t attend school when they had to plant the crops in the fall and harvest them in the spring. There could also be some interesting gender questions. Were there male teachers? Is there a shift from male to female teachers in South Carolina schools? And, when did this shift occur?
You never know what you’ll find in the archives and how it could lead to a great history topic.