Visual representation makes historical textbooks not only more exciting but also more illustrative. Moreover, nowadays there are novellas which tell about certain events through pictures. The approach makes concepts easier for students to comprehend and allows them to draw an impression of certain historical details. However, they can also limit perception to specific examples, creating a strong connection in a person between an object and its particular illustration.
History can be studied not only through examining and analyzing objective facts but also through the stories and memories of people who were directly in the event or era. Graphic novels related to historical events are unique; they allow interaction with the information “on multiple levels by using the text features in it to construct meaning” (Carano and Clabough 14). Moreover, the visual representation allows to “highlight the personalities, values, and beliefs of historical figures in a way that humanizes them for students” (Carano and Clabough 14). Thus, using graphic novels as material for the study of history can help create a deeper and more complete understanding of a particular event or person. An illustration can also depict an image or essential detail which is more understandable and memorable.
Graphic novels can also portray various concepts or terms, which at first glance, are challenging to comprehend. For example, the March trilogy, published from 2013 to 2016, tells about the Civil rights movement on behalf of one of its leaders. For example, in the second book, through the image of the protests of activists against segregation, it is explained the term “non-violent civil disobedience” (Carano and Clabough 15). It is easier for students to understand what the concept is, while it would be much more challenging to do it in words. In addition, graphic novels allow one to look at events from a particular perspective, also analyzing the character’s individual story. In contrast, illustrations in textbooks provide a broader picture of a historical era or event.
Few graphic materials are available for earlier events in history, as the recordings were predominantly written. However, the art of a certain period provides important information about how, for example, significant personalities, cultural details, and household items looked. For example, in the first chapter of the textbook “The Oxford Illustrated History of Modern China”, pictures of the era, which is referred to in the text, can be found (Wasserstrom).
The student can learn people’s appearance, what clothes they wore, what buildings were predominant. The book also includes maps illustrating the main events, with the help of which it is easier to represent the territory. Graphic materials are useful for drawing a picture of a certain period’s culture, of the way of life and traditions of people. However, they can also create a false impression about the appearance of people or the environment since, in particular, oriental art is quite symbolic.
The student may become confused about how accurate one or another representation is and create a false impression. A person can associate a certain picture with a whole class of objects which differ from each other. Thus, a limited representation may develop since the student will have a stable connection between the concept and its graphic appearance, which will complicate the perception of other types of the same object.
Graphic materials and illustrations are an important element in the study of historical topics. They can help to understand complex concepts through specific examples, as well as look at the life and culture of a particular time through art. However, pictures can also provide a limited representation of objects as they illustrate a specific example. Thus, it is important to show visualizations of particular items to facilitate understanding.
Carano, Kenneth, and Clabough, Jeremiah. “Images of Struggle: Teaching Human Rights with Graphic Novels.” The Social Studies, vol. 107, no. 1, 2016, pp. 14-18.
Wasserstrom, Jeffrey, editor. The Oxford Illustrated History of Modern China. Oxford University Press, 2016.