AHR History Lab


The #AHRSyllabus is a collaborative project designed to help teachers and students look "under the hood" at how historians in the early twenty-first century do the work of history. Each contribution to the syllabus will feature a practical hands-on teaching module that foregrounds innovative uses of historical method in the classroom. Beginning in September 2023, every issue of the AHR will include one or two #AHRSyllabus modules. Future modules will focus on teaching historical gaming in the classroom, making historical podcasts, teaching with graphic novels, innovative approaches to teaching historiography and teaching with material culture. 

All #AHRSyllabus modules are freely available on the AHR’s website to encourage wide classroom adoption. If you are engaged in an innovative teaching project that focuses on how historians do their work and would like to pitch a module for the #AHRSyllabus, please fill out this form. We consider pitches on a rolling basis and final modules are subject to peer review.

Knowing by Sensing: Teaching Sensory History

In the #AHRSyllabus module Knowing by Sensing, the interdisciplinary historical smells team Odeuropa introduces techniques for teaching sensory history in the classroom. They offer short video and textual presentations that explain approaches to teaching the history of smell and how it can enrich student learning about political, social and cultural history. Their module also provides teachers with a step-by-step guide for getting historical scents into the classroom and organizing smell walks that allow students, as Odeuropa puts it, “to sniff their way through history.”

Teaching History with Video Games

Among the ways in which students encounter history today is through historical video games. This module aims to help teachers channel that engagement and use historical gaming as a lens to explore critical issues around gender and race that can illuminate the past in new ways. Modern US historian Tore Olsson discusses his experiences teaching with Red Dead Redemption II, a popular historical video game set in a fictionalized America of 1899. He also offers a lesson plan that examines the question of women’s suffrage in the United States between 1850 and 1920 by interweaving content from Red Dead Redemption II with more traditional history pedagogy.

Historical Podcasts in the Classroom

This module introduces teachers and students to using podcasts in the classroom and to how they can create their own historical podcasts. It does so through the lens of abortion history. The module offers a lesson plan, along with supporting documents and additional resources, for the classroom use of a “A Sacred Calling,” a podcast episode on the history of a single Texas abortion clinic; this podcast episode was made in a collaborative partnership between Sexing History and the American Historical Review. The module also provides a step-by-step guide for making three-to-five-minute narrative and interview podcasts centered on a research question. The work of Sexing History, a leading history-based podcast, exemplifies the ways in which the podcast as a genre can convey complex historical arguments to students.

Teaching Historiography: Testimony and the Study of the Holocaust 

How do we make historical knowledge? And how can we help high school and college students better understand the ways in which interpretations of history change over time? This module introduces a new curricular and instructional model, Historiography-Based Inquiry, or HBI, that allows students to see the processes through which historians make claims and marshal evidence to support them. A framing essay outlines the HBI's structure and design principles, highlighting the challenges and opportunities involved in translating the work of historical interpretation for students. Following the framing essay, the HBI team provides a complete unit of instruction that engages students in a historiographical investigation of the role survivor testimony and voices of victims play in writing the history of the Holocaust. The unit provides teachers with a historiographical map of debates over the use of Holocaust testimony; a document packet that focuses on the place of testimony in the work of three leading historians of the Holocaust; and links to primary sources that will enable students to directly engage with some of the key sources that have driven major interpretative approaches to Holocaust history.

Learn More about the #AHRSyllabus

In this episode of the AHR's podcast History in Focus, we discuss  the current state of teaching history, from K–12 through the college level, and the AHR’s first major entry into the teaching discussion with the new #AHRSyllabus Project. Organizers Kathleen Hilliard, Laura McEnaney, and Katharina Matro join two of the first syllabus contributors, Saniya Lee Ghanoui (for the podcast Sexing History) and William Tullett (for the historical smells researchers of Odeuropa), to preview this new teaching resource and what we hope it will add for history teachers interested in engaging with the journal.