Today’s Lesson in Historical Thinking: Context

Trump can fix it

If you read The Way of Improvement Leads Home or my Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Post you know that I am a big fan of Thomas Andrews and Flannery Burke’s “5 Cs of Historical Thinking.”  They are Change Over Time, Context, Causality, Contingency, and Complexity.

Today has been a big day in American political history as the GOP starts the process of rejecting its own presidential nominee after the release of a 2005 tape of Donald Trump degrading women.

Last night, in a prepared video, Trump “apologized” for his remarks. Trump’s statement included the line: “Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am.”

In interpreting this sentence, any historical thinker would immediately place it in CONTEXT.  In this case, the context is dozens and dozens of similar derogatory remarks Trump has made about women in the past.

Of course there are other ways to think historically about Trump’s “apology.”  For example:

How should Trump’s apology be understood in the CONTEXT of the entire 2016 campaign?

How should Trump’s apology be understood in relationship to the Bill Clinton political career and Hillary’s involvement in it? (CONTEXT)

How should Trump’s apology be understood in the context of what Susan Wise Bauer has described as “The Art of Public Grovel?

How does one interpret Trump’s claim that he is a different man now than he was in 2005? (CHANGE OVER TIME?).

These are just a few ways of thinking historically about Trump’s midnight apology.  There are certainly others.  I welcome your suggestions in the comments.

One thought on “Today’s Lesson in Historical Thinking: Context

  1. I’ve been crediting you for the awesome quote about the 5 C’s of Historical Thinking! This post has corrected my error, so now I will credit Andrews and Burke for the “5 Cs of Historical Thinking.” Still, I was introduced to this concept by reading your material online. One of the difficulties of this Presidential race is the shocking lack of context by far too many in the media as they report on events. No one who has paid attention to Trump’s history was surprised by this video. There have been a few reporters out there who have been writing about Trump’s troubling history in how he mistreats women. These reports were mostly ignored until this video was made public. Trump hasn’t hidden his past and has made it a point of pride to say anything and everything he thinks. I blame the news media for being so blinded by the desire for the ratings Trump scored that they abandoned their responsibility as journalists.


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