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History 314: War and Society in Premodern Europe: Timelines

The Timeline as Concept

Interested in learning more about the history of and debates about timelines? Read what these historians have to say:

The Trouble with Timelines, by Daniel Rosenberg

What Is a Date?, by Christopher York

"History on the Line:  Time as Dimension," by Stephen Boyd Davis

Potential Problems

As you work on your timeline, you may encounter the following potential problems:

  • How might you represent ideas (as opposed to events)?
  • How can you represent place?
  • How do you want the viewer of your timeline to interpret any sizeable gaps?

Interpreting Timelines

Several timelines of the Holocaust exist.  Take a look at these three:

Holocaust Timeline, Yad Vashem

Timeline of the Holocaust, Museum of Tolerance, Los Angeles

History of the Holocaust,

  • What do you think is the main argument in each timeline?
  • Compare the starting and ending dates.  Do these choices affect the argument?
  • Where do the timelines converge and diverge?  What do these similarities and differences mean to you?

Thinking about Timelines

Questions to think about as you create your timeline:

What is the purpose of your timeline?
   To tell a story?
   To argue for a particular interpretation?
show cause and effect?
   To show relationships in a complex environment?

Who is your audience?
   Your classmates?
   Others who've read the same works?
   The general public?

What should the time range be?
   The lifespan of a specific person?
   A century?

   A political timespan?

What time units should you choose?


What are the relevant contexts?
   Cultural (literary, artistic, genre)?
   Political and social movements?
   Local, national, or international?