Here are some references and links for seminars that I conducted for my department’s “High School History Day” in November 2019.

The conceit of historians as detectives is very common in the field. By far my favorite exploration of historical detection is the essay “Clues” by Carlo Ginzburg, which appears in his collection Clues, Myths and the Historical Method (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989). One book that many of us have on our shelves is Robin W. Winks, ed. The Historian as Detective: Essays on Evidence (New York: Harper & Row, 1969). Winks also authored a book on the relations between the intelligence community and the university, Cloak and Gown: Scholars and the Secret War, 1939-1961 (2nd ed, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996). A more recent collection flips the premise, looking at what we can learn about the past by reading historical crime fiction: Ray B. Browne & Lawrence A. Kreiser, Jr., eds., The Detective as Historian: History and Art in Historical Crime Fiction (Madison: University of Wisconsin, 2000). Peirce’s three kinds of inference (and their connection to detective literature) are the subject of Umberto Eco & Thomas A. Sebeok, eds., The Sign of the Three: Dupin, Holmes, Peirce (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988).

Determining when and where a picture was taken is one kind of verification task. The Bellingcat website has links to many resources, including daily quizzes. The two examples of Pence’s ‘historic journey’ on Twitter come from an article by Nicole Dahmen. The photo of the man in the pit of water comes from this New York Times article. Hany Farid has made a career of developing sophisticated techniques for authenticating digital images. His new text Photo Forensics (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016) is a wonderful resource. The Lee Harvey Oswald example is discussed in this news article.

The example of all of the things that one can infer about a society from a single coin was adapted from Louis Gottschalk, Understanding History: A Primer of Historical Method (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1950). The map of 19th century shipping comes from the work of digital historian Ben Schmidt on the US Maury collection of the government’s database of ship’s paths. The example of finding Paul Revere from metadata comes from a clever and accessible blog post by sociologist Kieran Healy.

John North’s incredibly detailed analysis of Hans Holbein’s painting The Ambassadors appears in The Ambassadors’ Secret: Holbein and the World of the Renaissance (New ed, London: Phoenix, 2004). The still undeciphered Voynich manuscript is in the Beinicke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.