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Spotlight People

Understanding Historical Voice And Context

Laura Schmidt History Alumna

My history major from Wheaton taught me a lot about understanding historical voice and context, which greatly aided my career as an archivist and how I view the world around me as well. At Wheaton when approaching historical narratives I was taught to ask: “Who is speaking? Where are they from? What historical time period were they living in and how do all those components inform their understanding? How can their insights aid our own understanding?” This training guided me in grad school, and in my current position organizing and interpreting historical British literature collections at the Wade Center. It also informed how I think about other people. Anyone we encounter, whether they’re a historical figure or not, will hold a unique perspective. As historians and as Christians, it’s important to listen, observe, respect, and learn before joining a conversation or making assumptions. And as every good historian also knows, people’s views may change over the eras but the human qualities that bind us all together are timeless.