Abstract 2- Volume 5, Number 1, Spring 2010

Social Studies Research and Practice

Volume 5, Number 1, Spring 2010



Examining How Historical Agency Works in Children’s Literature

James S. Damico
Indiana University

Mark Baildon
Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice
National Institute of Education, Singapore

Daniel Greenstone
Oak Park and River Forest High School


This paper begins by framing the concept of historical agency as a complex relationship between structural forces and individual actions. We then describe general features of historical fiction and consider ways of using this type of text in classrooms. Using the concept of historical agency, we examine three historical fiction texts for upper elementary or middle level readers (Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, The Fighting Ground, and Dragon’s Gate). The analysis reveals the similarities and differences in the ways the authors construct historical agency. The paper concludes with a set of four key questions that teachers and students can apply to historical fiction to help students refigure the ways in which they construct knowledge about the past.

Key words: agency, children’s literature, historical agency, historical fiction, history

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