Historical Thinking: Impact of Ethnographic Approach for Interpretability of a Historic Urban Area, India

1Godwin Emmanuel Jeyaraj, A. Meenatchi sundaram


Historic urban areas, merely by their being in existence, reflect the occurrence of various events since the past. Historical thinking can provide the interpretative capabilities to obtain knowledge about the historic urban area. This study examines the ethnographic approach for gathering and organizing information on past events in a historic urban area of south India. Prior to the study, the researcher evolves a conceptual question, from Peter Seixas’s historical thinking model. ‘How to interpret the past events between the text, context and the questions that drive the inquiry in a historic urban area?’ Here the researcher assumes the role of a participant observer. Three ethnographic methods are useful; 1) Literature sources, 2) Archival sources, 3) Urban transect walk. Literature sources help one to interpret the texts about past events. Archival sources help in the interpretation of geographical settings within which such events occurred. Urban transect walk along a path helps one to trace the remnant structures of the study area. In the end, the study has resulted in a narrative description about settlement evolution in the study area. However this interpretability further calls for external validation. Besides the researcher, interpretations from historians and local people should also be considered. The concept of historical thinking in this study has therefore induced a comprehensive description of the study area in its larger spatial context. Besides, it can possibly create more empathized citizens towards conservation of heritage values in such historic urban contexts.


Archival Sources, Ethnographic Approach, Historical Inquiry, Historical Thinking, Historic urban area, Information Gathering, Interpretability.

Paper Details
IssueIssue 8