The most recent contribution to the IVP Little Book series is “A Little Book For New Historians” by Robert Tracy McKenzie. This concise 120 page volume offers a brief but compelling introduction to “Why” and “How” when it comes to studying history. The book is organized into two parts, “Why Study History” and “How to Study History Faithfully.”
Throughout the book are highlighted quotes both by McKenzie and by other various sources that McKenzie draws from. This serves to aid in comprehension and recognition of important points the author makes
The book stresses the importance of things like historical consciousness, which is explained well in chapter 4 and brought up multiple times throughout the little book. As McKenzie states “Historical consciousness isn’t information we possess or a skill that we practice. It’s a mindset that changes how we see both ourselves and the world.” A few pages later he expands this to say, “As it matures, historical consciousness becomes more than a mindset. It becomes a mindset that engages the heart—mocking our pride, exposing our pretensions, and teaching us humility.”
One thing I noticed is how well the author’s ideas or points flow together. He carries ideas throughout the book such as an image of a cup and a waterfall and a phrase I’ll be remembering for a while “No context, no meaning.” The irony of lack of context of that quote is not lost on me.
Aside from the quotes already highlighted, I’ve found it to be a rather quotable book. Among my favourites is the closing line of part one “When we approach the study of the past with humility and awe, recognizing the past as a sphere that God has ordained and prompted by biblical dictates and principles, the study of history can become both an act of obedience and an expression of worship.” This snippet sounds nice on its own but it is not merely a random thought, but the conclusion of the chapter.
While “A Little Book for New Historians” is from a Christian publisher and in the book you’ll find scriptures and the author being open regarding his personal faith, the book could be enjoyed and useful to any new historian, regardless of religion.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.