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Author: Anne Rothfield
Title: Patrick D. Reagan's History and the Internet: A Guide
Publication info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
May 2005

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Source: Patrick D. Reagan's History and the Internet: A Guide
Anne Rothfield

vol. 8, no. 1, May 2005
Article Type: Book Review

History and the Internet: A Guide

Anne Rothfield

Reference Librarian, History of Medicine, National Library of Medicine

Patrick D. Reagan. History and the Internet: A Guide. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2002.  ix + 143 pp.  $16.95 (paper). ISBN 0-0725-1456-6.

The Internet, with all of its searching capabilities and multimedia dimensions, has become an extremely valuable research tool for historians and history students. With technological advances in the last decade, digital sound and images now bring a scanned written document “alive” and now enhances the classroom experience.  Because of these convergences, Patrick Reagan’s discussion on multimedia and its use in the classroom makes a timely appearance. Although the monograph is slim in size, very suitable for one’s briefcase, History and the Internet: A Guide encourages the reader to examine and incorporate the multitude of websites reviewed in the text into one’s lesson plans.

History and the Internet provides, in clear prose, enough information to lead the reader into cyberspace and not be bogged down by names, acronyms, and technical information. There is a brief history of the Internet’s development and a concise discussion of browsers and URLs, listservs and their functions, and the meaning behind domain names.  The text is constructive and a practical tool. Reagan includes basic internet and computer tips which this reviewer found very useful and easy to understand. This reviewer liked Reagan’s easily explained encouragement of exploring the various links and menu items, and how he makes the new computer user comfortable in knowing that by clicking on these items the Internet would not crash. However, it is not clear if History and the Internet is for undergraduates, or middle and high school students, or for educators, students, and laypersons making the transition into the web world. Presumably, Regan is writing for undergraduates yet, today, middle school students are much more knowledgeable about computers and their programs than their teachers, and many are creating their own websites.

A concern of Reagan’s is how technology is or is not used by historians. Each year, educators learn how technologically advanced students have become; they are not afraid to test and play with the latest software nor unwilling to examine the popular web sites. Unfortunately, Reagan does not clearly explain how educators could incorporate the numerous annotated websites into the classroom and coursework curriculum.  It is understood that the creators must study and analyze the content; presentation and currency are also important issues.

The true value of the book is fully revealed in chapters four and seven when Reagan provides an analysis of uses for multimedia history.  Reagan’s selection from the vast body of websites available is presented with a brief description of the context and the resources available. He examines both historians’ and history students’ web projects for their respective classroom use. The historical community should hope that these informative websites remain online and current. In addition, the Guide lists the websites cited in the book, and additional webpages are grouped thematically and geographically. However, there is no explanation of how and why these websites are included. Presumably, Reagan follows his own recommendations for evaluating websites: authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and coverage.

Reagan warns the historical profession of the need to stay abreast of the changes and advances in cyberspace.  As he writes in his introduction, by incorporating the Internet into education, the historical community is in a position to “spark a popular renaissance of historical thinking.”