History's Habits of Mind

The National Council for History Education (NCHE) believes that historical thinking develops a unique capacity to comprehend human situations, challenges, and interactions.  Thinking historically introduces students to the wonders of the past and fosters the ability to make judgments about the present.  History’s Habits of Mind articulates this distinctive approach, one that leads towards engaging with and understanding the contemporary world and serves as a foundation for life-long, productive learning and active citizenship.


History’s Habits of Mind empower and enable individuals to:

  • Grasp the significance of the past in shaping the present
  • Perceive past events and issues as they might have been experienced by the people of the time, with historical empathy rather than present-mindedness
  • Read critically, to discern differences between evidence and assertion and to frame useful and appropriate questions about the past
  • Interrogate texts and artifacts, posing questions about the past that foster informed discussion, reasoned debate and evidence-based interpretation
  • Recognize that history is an evolving narrative constructed from available sources, cogent inferences and changing interpretations
  • Appreciate the diversity of cultures and variety of historical contexts, as well as to distinguish elements of our shared humanity
  • Understand the impact made by individuals, groups and institutions at local, national and global levels both in effecting change and in ensuring continuity
  • Realize that all individuals are decision makers, but that personal and public choices are often restricted by time, place and circumstance
  • Negotiate a complex, often uncertain and ambiguous world, equipped with the appreciation for multiple perspectives
  • Engage in patient reflection and constant reexamination of the past and present.