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Author: Stephen Robertson
Title: Doing History in Hypertext
Publication info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
August 2004

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Source: Doing History in Hypertext
Stephen Robertson

vol. 7, no. 2, August 2004
Article Type: Article

Doing History in Hypertext

Stephen Robertson

University of Sydney

In 2000, when I began to incorporate web sites into my courses and to create web pages of my own, I spent little time reflecting on what I was doing. In part that attitude was a consequence of the things I chose to do. The sites I assigned, like the vast majority of the historical sites on the Internet, were on-line versions of primary sources. In using those sites, I treated them as I would a paper copy of a source, departing from that model only in allowing students to choose particular examples that interested them when we used particularly rich sites. Likewise, the web sites that I created myself were syllabi that reproduced the paper version, albeit in a slightly altered form. I did utilize hypertext to break each syllabus into several HTML pages, and to provide a variety of different links between each section.  [1] But generally I simply saw my HTML editor as an extension of my word processor, a slippage encouraged by the similar interfaces of Claris Homepage, the editor I was then using, and of Microsoft Word. It was only in 2001 that, having been awarded a small grant to support teaching initiatives, I found myself reflecting on how I was using hypertext.

I had applied for the grant in order to create an on-line version of a primary source that I wanted to use in my teaching. But I also wanted to go one step further, to produce not only a digitized document, but also a context for that document. I proposed to provide three layers of context: an editorial context that provided information on the authors and publication of the document, on the people, places and practices to which it refers, and on reactions to it at the time of its publication; a historical context that provided information on the period, developments, movements and patterns of which the document was a part; and a historiographical context that provided information on different interpretations of the meaning of the document and on how historians have used it as evidence.  [2] This concept represented my first recognition of the ways that hypertext allowed a text to be placed in relation to other texts, and of how the ability to easily move among texts promoted reflection about the relationship of those texts. My proposal also made a passing reference to the possibility of developing a course in which upper level Honours students created sites using my project as a model.

Once I began work on developing my site, and began to use more and more web-based readings in my teaching, the possibilities of a course that gave students hands on experience writing history for the Internet caught my imagination. I quickly learnt that there was more to doing history in hypertext than simply putting a traditional form of history — a source, interpretation, argument, review, or bibliography — on the Internet. Links offered the possibility to construct a non-linear narrative, a form that, by providing the reader with multiple links, presented choices that involved him or her in the process of interpretation. However, utilizing the potential of the link also required a different style of writing, one that allowed for the fact that the reader could arrive at a passage of text from a variety of different places.  [3] Doing hypertext history thus involved more than simply learning the technical skill of working with HTML; it also required adapting and extending the skills of historical analysis and writing. How to do history in hypertext suddenly seemed something that a historian, not a computer scientist, should be teaching students.

It also struck me that my students would consider the ability to work with hypertext to be a useful skill. Moreover, I was sure the possibility of publishing their work on the Internet would inspire my students. In looking to integrate my project with my teaching I was inspired by the collaborative nature of Thomas Dublin and Kathryn Kish Sklar's site, Women and Social Movements in the United States.  [4] Dublin and Sklar developed the template for the projects that make up their site — a series of documents that addresses a central interpretive question, with an interpretive introduction, headnotes for each document, a bibliography, and a list of related links. The students enrolled in their courses produce projects on topics that interest them, and Dublin and Sklar edit and revise the best of those projects for inclusion in the site.  [5] Their project, however, was essentially an editorial one, and made only limited use of hypertext. That approach was partly dictated by their students' limited knowledge of historical method. In comparison, upper level History Honours students at my institution have considerably more experience working with and analysing primary sources, and I felt confident they could attempt a project that required them to go further in grappling with hypertext.

Another Teaching Initiative Grant in 2002 allowed me to develop and teach a two-semester seminar course called American History on the World Wide Web. The first semester of the course was devoted to discussion of theoretical writings on hypertext, and to the analysis of the various examples of history on the web. In the second semester, the students created their own web sites. However, by the time we reached the second semester, it became clear to both my students and I that my site offered a somewhat limited model for their work. Our discussions of the theoretical possibilities of hypertext had led some students to consider my approach too directed and structured. As a result, several students developed their own concepts of how history could be presented using hypertext.

That development extended what I had imagined as an exercise in teaching hypertext and history into a research project on how to construct a history hypertext. My students perceived and pursued possibilities for doing history in hypertext that I had not considered, and encountered challenges that I had not expected. As a result, this article presents not only my course and my experience teaching it, but also the findings and conclusions of the research that the students undertook.  [6]

Method and Context: The Syllabus

The course was one of the options available to third and fourth-year Honours students in the Department of History at the University of Sydney. As such, it took the form of a two-hour seminar each week for thirteen weeks.  [7] The focus of the course was a project, a hypertext centred on primary sources relating to a topic in American history chosen by the student. The basic question posed by that assignment was how to link a source and its context. A series of other issues followed from that question: constructing authority and authorial presence in a site; fitting together the multiple components of a site; structuring the user's movement and aiding his or her navigation; choosing a narrative structure; and incorporating related material available on the web.

In confronting these issues, the students could draw on the theoretical writing on hypertext that they had analyzed in the previous semester.  [9] As an introduction to hypertext, the students read chapters from George Landow's Hypertext 2.0, supplemented by Vannevar Bush's classic 1945 article, "As We May Think," Jerome McGann's article, "The Rationale of Hypertext," and sections of Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, and Robin Parmar's online Electronic Labyrinth.  [10] Landow offers a particularly effective account of the possibilities provided by hypertext — which he defines straightforwardly as "text composed of blocks of text and the electronic links that join them." Links can connect material "'external' to a work — say, commentary on it by another author or parallel or contrasting texts — as well as within it, and thereby create text that is experienced as non-linear, or, more properly, as multilinear or multisequential."  [11] Multiple links, Landow explains, permit readers to take various paths through a given body of text blocks, and encourage associative thinking. That multiplicity also fragments the linear progression of text blocks that characterizes printed texts; a hypertext has no fixed sequence, no fixed text. As such, it can breakdown the hierarchy of texts, placing references previously marginalized as footnotes or endnotes on a par with the connected documents, and blur the boundaries of individual texts.  [12] Thus, where the printed text suggests self-containment, Landow argues that the hypertext suggests integration, thereby correcting the artificial isolation of a text from its context. By offering multiple links, hypertext presents the reader with choices that force him or her to become active, and potentially grants to that reader some of the authority typically given the author to shape a text and its meaning.  [13] As Landow notes, in a hypertext the "relationship [of blocks of text] depends solely upon the reader's need and purpose."  [14] Or, as Jerome McGann puts it, the reader "is encouraged not so much to find as to make order — and then to make it again and again, as established orderings expose their limits."  [15]

It is the impact of hypertext on narrative forms that has the most implications for the writing of history. On that topic, the students also read chapters from Janet Murray's influential Hamlet on the Holodeck, together with Espen Aarseth's article "Nonlinearity and Literary Theory," and further sections from Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, and Robin Parmar's online Electronic Labyrinth.  [16] Murray's book stood out as the most useful to students, who referred to it as touchstone throughout the course. Her concept of an "additive art form" provides a means of distinguishing between hypertext and other textual forms. An additive site is one "still depending on formats derived from earlier technologies instead of exploiting its own expressive power," one which "takes advantage of the novelty of computer delivery without utilizing its intrinsic properties."  [17]

Murray also offers a vision of digital environments that highlights the possibilities that they offered for new literary forms, describing them as having procedural, participatory, spatial and encyclopedic properties. The first two properties give those environments an interactive character; the latter two make "digital creations seem as explorable and extensive as the actual world." Hypertext is procedural in the sense that it takes the forms of a series of rules that the computer follows; a link opens a new page. Hypertext is interactive in that it responds to the user's input; a link is triggered only when a user clicks on it. The interactive process of navigation creates the spatial properties of hypertext, allowing it to "present space that we can move through." The encyclopedic properties of hypertext are different in degree not kind from those of other texts; the digital form allows the storage and retrieval of information far beyond what was possible before. As a result, hypertext offers "the opportunity to tell stories from multiple vantage points and to offer intersecting stories that form a dense and wide-spreading web." At the same time, hypertext risks leaving readers "wondering which of several endpoints is the end, and how they can know if they have seen everything there is to see."  [18]

Murray's book does not, however, answer the question that students repeatedly asked in the early seminars: what would hypertext history look like? I assigned the little that historians have written on this issue, but the writings of Robert Darnton, Edward Ayers, Carl Smith, and Randy Bass offer visions that, in Murray's terms, are additive.  [19] In 1999, for example, Robert Darnton imagined an electronic book structured in "layers arranged like a pyramid," ranging from a concise account at the top through expanded arguments, documentation, historiography and pedagogic, and resting on a layer of commentary by readers. Such a site partakes only of the encyclopedic properties of digital environments; the other properties are lost in Darnton's dismissal of links as amounting to "little more than an elaborate form of footnoting."  [20] Edward Ayers, leader of the Valley of the Shadow Project, a large digital archive about two Civil-War era communities in the American South that is probably the largest and best known example of digital history, has attempted to engage more with the properties of the medium. In 1999, he briefly sketched a hypertext centered on the concept of systems. Each system — the party system, the economic system, the system of racial control — would be described in its own terms, "much as in a conventional book," and could be read in a linear fashion, from start to finish. "But perhaps," Ayers suggests, "the reader could also click on a button that reads "time" and the various narratives would appear in a series of columns aligned by date. Where the systems touched, the reader might see connecting text telling is how Irish immigration, say, and the dissolution of the Whig Party and the hard times in cities intersected in the mid-1850s. Or perhaps the reader would supply that connection herself when she saw the juxtaposition." However, as the reference to the form of the conventional book reveals, even this vision remains essentially additive; Ayers is ultimately far more comfortable laying out the problems of producing hypertext history than he is trying to solve them.  [21]

For all the proliferation of historical material on the Internet, there are few examples of hypertext history to help students. Instead, the history web consists almost entirely of digitised documents, with hypertext used as a means of accessing those texts or appending various kinds of information to them. The students had examined some leading examples of such digital archives and exhibitions, and looked at the closest thing to hypertexts available, the online articles published by the American Quarterly in 1999.  [22]2 One of those articles, Thomas Thurston's "Hearsay of the Sun: Photography, Identity, and the Law of Evidence in Nineteenth-Century American Courts,", used hypertext essentially to enhance a conventional article, dividing the screen into three frames that contained the text, the notes and the sources referred to in the text.  [23] James Castonguay's "The Spanish-American War in US Media Culture," and David Westbrook's "From Hogan's Alley to Coconino County: Three Narratives of the Early Comic Strip," both used hypertext to depart somewhat further from a conventional article, dividing their article into discrete sections, each with links to sources and additional text. But whereas Castonguay conceived his sections as independent and able to be read in an order, Westbrook saw each of his "threads" as depending "on concepts and observations built up in other threads." Westbrook also used links to annotate the cartoons, turning the sources themselves into an additional thread. Despite those innovations, the hypertexts of Castonguay and Westbrook still look much like, and are read in a similar way to, conventional academic articles.  [24]

Not so the fourth hypertext, Louise Krasniewicz and Michael Blitz's "Dreaming Arnold Schwarzenegger," which was also the one that most caught my students' imagination, even if some of them did not think it was entirely successful. It is the only one of the articles that links to the rest of the web — is, as Roy Rosenzweig put it, "unbounded" — as part of the authors' effort "to incorporate not just the more formal components of investigative research, but also the kinds of discoveries and reflections that are more traditionally relegated to the margins of qualitative research." In that sense, this hypertext goes far further in breaking down the hierarchies between texts and de-centering the argument than any of the other articles. It also provides "multiple options for exploration" — site map, text, database, and virtual reality — which constitute not separate arguments, as in the other articles, so much as distinct ways of approaching the material. Taken together, those features produce a hypertext that provides scope for the associative thinking long claimed as possible in the medium.  [25]

In the absense of other fully hypertextual history sites to which the students could refer, I also had them analyze several sites that sought to present documents in context, the task that I had set them. In addition to my own work-in-progress, we examined the Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture, Do History: Martha Ballard's Diary Online, Famous Trials, and 1896: The Presidential Campaign.  [26] I also provided the opportunity for each student to receive feedback from both the class as a whole and from me. In the fifth week I met each student individually to discuss his or her design concept. In week eight each student did a ten-minute presentation on their project and their progress to that point. To complete the project, students had to work with HTML. They had begun working with an HTML editor in the previous semester. Both the web review and the site analysis assignments they had done had been submitted as HTML documents. To help them complete those assignments, one of the seminars had been devoted to a workshop on using Netscape Composer. A further workshop on HTML was scheduled midway through this course.

My decision to have the students use Composer, which is a very basic HTML editor, was partly the result of limited resources. The editor I had been using just prior to the course, Claris Homepage, had recently become unavailable, forcing me to make a long overdue move to Dreamweaver. Unfortunately, my institution did not make Dreamweaver available in student computer labs, and the cost to students of buying their own copies was well beyond what they usually paid for texts in an Honours course. Composer, on the other hand, could be accessed in any lab, and by any student with an Internet connection. It also took considerably less time to master than Dreamweaver, and was more in keeping with my own limited skills. I have no formal training in the use of web editors, and I cannot write HTML code. I was also concerned that the course not exclude students with no experience with web design, and that the students focus on the core elements of hypertext, particularly the link, rather than becoming sidetracked by bells and whistles. On both counts, I proved to be somewhat naïve.

Findings and Conclusions: The Course

Fifteen students enrolled in the course, five fourth-year students and ten third-year students. Two of the third-year students came from the Arts Informatics program, a cross-faculty degree that combines studies in Arts and Information Technology. [27] As such, they possessed technical skills far beyond my own and those of the other students in the course. Four students who had been enrolled in the previous semester's course opted not to take this course. Some of those students had very limited exposure to the Internet and struggled to come to terms with researching and analysing in that medium. Others found the course too open ended and speculative, and opted to take more traditional history courses. The students who did continue created projects that dealt with topics ranging from Richard Nixon, to the Triangle Factory Fire, the Louisiana Purchase and Dizzy Gillespie.  [28] Two students, having left it to the last moment to start work on their projects, produced only a fragment of a site. The labor involved in creating a hypertext meant that the project did not suit those students who liked to complete their assignments at the last minute. In the last seminar of the semester, all the students enrolled in the course, in addition to completing the standard university course evaluation, answered a twenty-four-question survey that I wrote, and took part in a class discussion of their experiences in the course. The survey asked for comments rather than scores, and most students wrote several sentences in answer to each question. Three students in the course produced projects that used hypertext to present their topics in a form clearly different from a conventional essay. These same students expressed the greatest enthusiasm for the theoretical writing on hypertext they had read and the possibilities for new ways of doing history that those readings opened up. "These were, for me, the most enjoyable, challenging, and interesting parts of the course," one commented. "The more theoretical the better," wrote another.  [29] However, each of the students responded differently to those theoretical writings.

Sam L.'s site on the Motion Picture Code is distinguished by his concern to minimize the presence of an authoritative voice.  [30] The site uses a grid as its "structuring principle," with the each of the five horizontal rows presenting material related to a decade from 1920 to 1960, and the five columns dealing with, respectively, the history of censorship, the film Industry, documents relating to the regulation of movies, films, and the events of the decade. Once a user has chosen a section as their point of entry into the grid, they are given the option of moving to any of the four adjacent sections, of moving back or forward in time, or exploring other dimensions of the same period. Sam intended the structure to lead "the user to adopt a historical mode of thinking, to think both comparatively and contextually about the information" the site provided.  [31] Each section of the grid included not interpretative material written by Sam, but excerpts from a variety of critical works and links to other sites. He intended this variety to promote interpretive work by the user, to whom he left the task of making sense of the different points of view. In using Sam's site in order to assess it, I found my initial scepticism about his approach falling away. The grid did offer me only a limited number of pathways through the site, and thus restricted my ability to shape my own approach to the material. But the more that I moved around the site, the more I was struck by how effectively the grid encouraged the kind of historical thinking that generally does not come naturally to my undergraduate students. In contrast to Sam L., Sam I. opted to write contextual material for his site on the political career of Richard Nixon, and to rely on extensive inter-linking, rather than an overall structure, as the means by which users would navigate the site.  [32] His site presented nine obituaries of Nixon together with two sets of contexts, a page on each author, and nine pages on different periods in Nixon's career. Having entered the site on one of those three levels, the user then encounters text that included significant numbers of links. Most of the links are to other parts of the site; only the pages on Nixon's career link to sources outside the site. In his explanatory notes, Sam described how he included no links from his sources directly to other sources, or from one obituary to another, in order to ensure than users engaged with the contextual material. But within those bounds, Sam intended the extensive links to create "multiple-pathways-of-context," to allow each user to shape their own encounter with the sources. The greatest challenge for Sam was raising issue of developing a writing style that suited hypertext: "because users would be linking extensively within the text, each of my analytical discussions had to be written as concise self-contained paragraphs that made sense by themselves, as well as as parts of the broader argument on that page."  [33] I found that Sam's site worked best when I read the obituaries first; they contain the detailed information that a user needs to make sense of the pages on the commentators and Nixon's career. The pages that surround the obituaries are comments or annotations rather than contexts, offering readings of the obituaries rather than surrounding them with additional information.  [34] The heavy linking of the text does offer the user more pathways and choices than Sam L.'s grid. But it was not always clear to me whether clicking on a link would take me to a primary source, or to a context, or to an interpretation — although the site's division into three parts did help ensure that I did not get entirely lost. Ultimately, my experience of using Sam I.'s site was not one of participating in constructing a reading of the sources, or gaining insight into how the reading presented on the site was constructed, but of being offered different ways of reading the sources and his interpretation. Such a design might not have modelled historical thinking, as Sam L.'s site did, but, in allowing me to follow my interests, it did make me a more engaged reader.

In contrast to Sam I., Amy N. sought to encourage the user of her site on Dizzy Gillespie's autobiography to construct his or her own interpretation.  [35] The opening page of the site offers, in addition to a link to the document, a section on how to read that text, which uses questions to present different approaches without offering an authoritative voice. Amy continued that approach in the contexts with which she surrounds the autobiography. That material deals with three topics — jazz, culture and race — with each section offering brief summaries of interpretations, questions, and links to relevant sections of the autobiography and other on-line sources. Using hypertext to pose questions to someone as they read a text appeals to me as a concept, but here it is not fully realized. With the exception of one section, Amy included almost no links in the text of the autobiography. She also provided no guide to how to use the site. As a result, I found myself reading the autobiography without considering the contexts. Even when I did find my way to those pages, there were too few links between the sections to allow me to move between the contextual pages and the autobiography in a way that let me incorporate the contextual material into my reading of the text. In the end, I spent much of my time up reading the autobiography and the contexts separately, much as I would have in a printed form.

The remaining students did not go as far in conceiving a hypertextual form of history. Some incorporated elements of hypertext into traditional forms of doing history. Alison L.'s site on photographs of the Triangle Fire was one of several projects that placed an emphasis on providing multiple pathways through the material they presented.  [36] The site used a grid to offer four different contexts for the photographs — "general/visual," "union," "immigration," and "feminism." Beyond that overall framework, the concept of the site took on a more traditional form. The contents of the grid are a series of essays, with no links between them or to other on-line material.  [37] Other students used links to bring their argument and evidence closer together. Ben S.'s site on the F.B.I.'s Mafia Monograph and Clement L.'s site on Martha Beals's autobiographical account of the desegregation of Central High use frames to present contextual material alongside the source.  [38] Lisa M's site on the Louisiana Purchase, and Anna B.'s site on Iran-Contra use links as footnotes that take the user to the full source rather than to a citation. [39] Elizabeth S. used hypertext to present sources related to the Cuban Missile Crisis in the form of a calendar that linked to a page consisting of three frames, containing editorials from the New York Times, a summary of events, and letters to the editor from the New York Times. However, her site offered little context for that material.  [40]

These students were less confident "stepping into the [conceptual] unknown," as one put it, than the members of the class who made greater use of hypertext, and were more daunted or frustrated by technical issues, tending to get bogged down in issues related to the creation of HTML documents. One wrote, I "found this project difficult to start, however I think this was because of my lack of confidence in using the technology." Another simply commented, "construction terrifies me." Most reported that they found the theoretical writings helpful, but in terms of equipping them to recognize how a web site worked, rather than in stimulating them to conceive new ways of doing history. Without the theoretical readings, one commented, "it would be a question of 'what's hypertext?' 'How do I do it'" A smaller group, however, expressed a lack of interest in theory. For one, "theory-related courses" such as he perceived this one to be, involved "an artificial avoidance of [the] historical specifics which I find so absorbing."

The students nonetheless considered the project a useful exercise. All of them commented on how the assignment had forced them to develop new skills in writing, to write differently for a different medium. "I have felt the need to develop a more open, less directive mode of writing," one reported. I certainly have not mastered non-sequential narrative, but I am in a better position to attempt this in future." For another, working in hypertext made her "far more conscious about issues such as audience, and that has had an influence on changing my writing and thinking more broadly about different ways of expressing myself that combined academic standards with accessibility." Many students enjoyed the "creative freedom" the project provided in regards to choosing a topic and an approach. They also commented that undertaking the project helped them to understand the limitations of the online history that we had examined during the course. "Being required to create a website is the best way to put many of the issues raised [by hypertext] into perspective," one noted.

However, it is clear that when I next teach this course I need to give the students more help in imagining how to use hypertext. The examples available on the web in 2002 proved little help in this regard; students found them repetitive and limited in their approach to hypertext. "Although I've heard some quite abstract accounts of [hypertext's] radical potential," one student reported, "I haven't yet seen a site which has caused me to reformulate my concepts of history (they're already fairly fragmented)." The projects produced in this course will provide future students with some more varied examples. I will also look to extend the workshops on how to approach primary sources, which the students felt worked well, to also deal with what can be done with particular sources using hypertext. Having the sources in front of them when students start thinking about how to conceive their project might help close the gap that some students perceived between theory and the 'stuff of history.' The next version of this course will also need to devote more time and resources to web design. The students all commented on their frustration at not being about to do more with HTML; they wanted to reproduce the things they saw on the sites they visited. To that end, I will ask the students to purchase Dreamweaver, and allow more time for training, supplemented by online guides such as those to which Roy Rosenzweig refers his students.  [41] Finding more time to devote to web design will also require either focusing the course simply on hypertext history, with no claim to also provide knowledge of a particular field, or giving the course a narrow topical focus, so there is a focus for discussions of content as well as form. However, developing such a topical focus will be difficult given the resources presently available on the Internet.

Despite the limitations that those changes attempt to address, the students rated the course very highly and judged it a worthwhile experience. They all appreciated the ways in which it extended their skills. Of more significance to me, some students reported that the course "encouraged me to think beyond my usual boundaries," that it "opened new avenues," and that "really expanded and pushed the boundaries on how we looked at history." Those new possibilities, and the imperative to reflect on how I do history, are what draw me to hypertext and HTML. They spur me to continue exploring ways to teach students, not how to put traditional forms of history on the Internet, but how to do history in hypertext.


1. For an example of my on-line syllabi, and for the use of Internet sources in my teaching, see "Childhood and Youth in Modern America," at 30 August 2004.

2. This concept is similar to that proposed by Robert Darnton, although I imagined a denser web of two-way links where Darnton saw a pyramid. See Robert Darnton, "The New Age of the Book," The New York Review of Books (18 March, 1999), at 30 August 2004, and the discussion of Darnton later in this article.

3. The properties of hypertext are discussed in more detail in the next section of this article.

4. Women and Social Movements in the United States, at 30 August 2004.

5. See Kathryn Kish Sklar, "Teaching Students to Become Producers of New Historical Knowledge on the Web," Journal of American History, 88 (March 2002): 1471-76 30 August 2004; and Thomas Dublin and Kathryn Kish Sklar, "Democratizing Student Learning: The 'Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1820-1940' Web Project at SUNY Binghamton," History Teacher, 35 (February 2002): 163-73 30 August 2004.

6. In that regard, this article differs from the small amount of existing scholarship about courses intended to teach students to produce hypertext history, which offer few details about the projects that students produced, or examples of what hypertext history might look like. See Arne Solli, "Hypertext 'Papers' on the Web: Students Confront the Linear Tradition," in Essays on Teaching with Technology, eds. Dennis Trinkle and Scott Merriman (Armonk, NY, 2001), 38-51; Daniel Pfeifer, "Linking History with Hypertext: Rethinking the Process," in, 52-59.

7. "American History on the World Wide Web," at

8. Identifying the sources that would form the basis of that project was one of the goals of a seminar the students had completed in the previous semester. See "American History on the World Wide Web," at For the first three weeks of this course, the class worked with the primary sources the students had chosen. The discussions focused on how to read different types of sources, on identifying what needed explanation in a source — people, places, references, language, appearance, style — and on identifying contexts for sources.

9. See "Schedule,' at

10. George Landow, Hypertext 2.0 (Baltimore, 1997); Vannevar Bush, "As We May Think," Atlantic Monthly (July 1945), at 30 August 2004; Jerome McGann, "The Rationale of Hypertext," at 30 August 2004; Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, and Robin Parmar, "Hypertext Terminology," at 30 August 2004. For another useful introduction to hypertext, see Jay David Boulter, Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print, 2nd ed. (Mahwah, NJ, 2001).

11. Landow, 3-4.

12. Ibid, 5-6, 64-65, 70, 76-77, 79-80, 85-88.

13. Ibid, 24-25, 83.

14. Ibid, 71.

15. McGann.

16. Janet Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace (Cambridge, Mass., 1998); Espen Aarseth, "Nonlinearity and Literary Theory," in Hyper / Text / Theory, ed. George Landow (Baltimore, 1994), 51-86; Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, and Robin Parmar, "Writing and Reading Electronic Hypertexts," at 30 August 2004

17. Murray, 65-68 (quote on 67)

18. Ibid, 71-94 (quotes on 71, 79, 84, 87).

19. Darnton, at; Edward Ayers, "History in Hypertext," at 30 August 2004; Edward Ayers, "The Pasts and Futures of Digital History,' at 30 August 2004; Randy Bass, "Can American Studies find a Whole in the Net?" at 30 August 2004; Carl Smith, "Can You Do Serious History on the Web?" AHA Perspectives Online (February 1998), at 30 August 2004.

20. Darnton, at (30 August 2004). A similar criticism could be made of another of the texts that the students read, Smith, at

21. Ayers, "History in Hypertext," at 30 August 2004. Since the course was taught, Ayers has offered another vision of hypertext history in conjunction with the publication of an article he co-authored with William Thomas. See William G. Thomas III and Edward Ayers, "An Overview: The Differences Slavery Made: A Close Analysis of Two American Communities," American Historical Review 108, 5 (December 2003): 1299-1307.

22. "Hypertext Scholarship in American Studies," at 30 August 2004. For two other examples of online articles, see Philip J. Ethington, "Los Angeles and the Problem of Urban Historical Knowledge," AHR 105 (December 2000), 30 August 2004; and Robert Darnton, "An Early Information Society: News and Media in Eighteenth-Century Paris," AHR 105 (February 2000), Since the course Ayers and Thomas have published a more fully hypertextual online article, although their effort to fully employ the properties of the medium was ultimately "tamed by peer review." See William G. Thomas III and Edward Ayers, "The Differences Slavery Made: A Close Analysis of Two American Communities," at The quote is from Thomas and Ayers, "An Overview," 1305.

23. Thomas Thurston, "Hearsay of the Sun: Photography, Identity, and the Law of Evidence in Nineteenth-Century American Courts," at 30 August 2004.

24. James Castonguay, "The Spanish-American War in US Media Culture," at 30 August 2004; David Westbrook, "From Hogan's Alley to Coconino County: Three Narratives of the Early Comic Strip," at 30 August 2004.

25. Louise Krasniewicz and Michael Blitz, "Dreaming Arnold Schwarzenegger," at 30 August 2004; Roy Rosenzweig, "Crashing the System?: Hypertext and Scholarship on American Culture," American Quarterly 51, 2 (1999): 241; Louise Krasniewicz and Michael Blitz, "Why We Did Not Produce "Dreaming Arnold Schwarzenegger" as a Book, Several Articles, an Encyclopedia, a Video, an Annotated Bibliography, and a Museum Installation (or Did We?)," American Quarterly 51, 2 (1999): 259, 260.

26. Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture, at; Do History: Martha Ballard's Diary Online, 30 August 2004; Doug Linder, Famous Trials, at 30 August 2004; Rebecca Edwards and Sarah DeFeo, 1896: The Presidential Election, at 30 August 2004.

27. "University of Sydney Department of Arts Informatics," at 30 August 2004.

28. "American History on the World Wide Web Projects," at 30 August 2004.

29. All quotations are taken from student responses to my survey, and are used with the student's permission.

30. "How to Use This Site," at 30 August 2004.

31. Ibid.

32. "The Nine Lives of Richard Nixon," at 30 August 2004.

33. "Explanatory Notes," at 30 August 2004.

34. The accounts of Nixon's career, for example, discuss how each period is treated in the obituaries, and in historical writing generally, and offer only a few details of the actual events or their broader context.

35. "Dizzy Gillespie's 'The Cult of Bebop'," at 30 August 2004.

36. "Photos from the Triangle Factory Fire," at 30 August 2004.

37. For other sites that coupled multiple pathways with traditional writing, see "Grassy Knoll," at 30 August 2004; and "The 1992 LA Riots," at 30 August 2004.

38. "Mafia Monograph," at 30 August 2004; "Little Rock, Arkansas, September 23-24, 1957," at 30 August 2004.

39. "The Louisiana Purchase," at 30 August 2004; "The Truth is Stranger Than Fiction," at 30 August 2004.

40. "The Cuban Missile Crisis," at 30 August 2004.

41. "Clio Wired: The Syllabus," at 30 August 2004.