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Shemilt, Denis. “The Caliph's Coin: The Currency of Narrative Frameworks in History Teaching.” In Knowing, Teaching, and Learning History: National and International Perspectives, edited by Peter N. Stearns, Peter Seixas, and Sam Wineburg, 83-101. New York: New York University Press, 2000.


In this chapter, Shemilt reviews a number of studies conducted in British elementary and
 high schools to determine how teachers use narrative frameworks to teach about the past. Based on the results from these studies the author outlines four levels of narrative frameworks for use in history teaching.

At the first level, “a chronologically ordered past,” teachers can teach history by means of timelines with varying degrees of detail and description. History is thus pictured as a map. In contrast, in the second level teachers present history as a story. At this level, “coherent historical narratives,” meaning is attached to every event in the chronology. At the third level, “multidimensional narratives,” Shemilt suggests that teachers use three interlocking dimensions to construct a narrative: means of production and population history, forms of social organization, and cultural and intellectual history. Lastly, at the “polythetic narrative frameworks” level, teachers are asked to teach history in a way that will allow students to understand that truth is constructed and there is no one narrative of the past.

Shemilt concludes that history education should capture “the big picture” through different types of narrative construction rather than focus on individual events that seem disconnected.

Ana Laura Pauchulo