Challenge Journal 2: How to Make History Not Boring

For my project I have to offer a good amount of historical background and context in order to get the reader to where I want them to be. I’m trying to prove a point by taking readers back far enough to the point where they see a time before the conflict in question. In doing so, I’m forcing myself to give some pretty ancient history. Personally, I really enjoy history, but that might be part of my downfall. I’m trying to take information from scholarly articles that is pretty much just a bunch of facts written in fancy, hard-to-read language and turn it into something that is actually interesting to read.

My approach to this is to use as many metaphors, contemporary references, and breaks as I can to bring the readers back to the idea that this is relevant and can be relevant in what we see today. I try to give a little information then pull the readers back so that they don’t feel an overload of facts being thrown at them that they might not care about. I’m essentially writing as if I were talking to the readers, using the word “we” a lot so as to show that we are in this history lesson together and if we can make it through it will all make sense.

Here’s a sample sentence of how I try to make it easier to get through:

“Before we get into the conflict, though, I want to first explain the religious claim that Jews have to Israel in order to start building the foundation of knowledge that is needed to truly understand where this conflict came from. We are traveling back now, back to before Islam and even before Christianity. Back to when the people Israel (what Jews called themselves), led by Moses, escaped Egypt and over the course of what could’ve been anywhere from a decade to a century, gained control of the land, which was supposedly promised to them as Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel) by God.”

Basically, by adding the parentheses and grouping myself with the readers I’m trying to make reading history more fun and appealing. Hopefully, it’s working.

2 thoughts to “Challenge Journal 2: How to Make History Not Boring”

  1. Hi Madison,
    I have been thinking of this information dump myself. If I’m correct, it seems from your post that the historical info you’re giving here is not just info to be given for convenience; it’s some part of your argument. My paper is the same way, and I’m trying to present it in a way that’s not too bland. Based on your topic, I would assume that there are many people in your audience who would find the historical topics you’re covering to be interesting in almost any kind of communication style, and I’m hoping the same is true for my project. However, it’s still difficult because I like to think of my writing as a conversation, and there’s just not a lot of room for opinion or speculation in history; it’s fact.

    I have also tried to use a personal tone, which I think is helpful to feel like the discovery is more collaborative. Something else I’ve found useful is using quotes with interesting analysis of the history from the experts writing the materials. As long as they are relevant, I think if you can provide little fun facts or bits of interesting analysis about the historical events, it feels less like an info dump and more like a discovery.

    1. Hi Lauren,
      Thanks for the response! I’ve definitely been using tone to try to keep the information light and easy to understand. Recently during peer reviews one of my partners noted that my tone is much lighter than the look of my site and while the writing is fun to read, the website isn’t as fun to look at. So now I’m trying to figure out how to make a more serious topic visually match the tone I’m using while also keeping the site appropriate and not making the issue seem oversimplified or trivial in any way. Let me know if you have any ideas or are having a similar issue!

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