Reacting to the Past

In addition to traditional lectures and seminars, several classes in the History Department use "Reacting to the Past" games.  In the words of the Reacting Consortium, the governing body for RTTP,

"Reacting to the Past (RTTP) consists of elaborate games, set in the past, in which students are assigned roles informed by classic texts in the history of ideas. Class sessions are run entirely by students; instructors advise and guide students and grade their oral and written work. It seeks to draw students into the past, promote engagement with big ideas, and improve intellectual and academic skills. Pioneered in the late 1990s by Mark C. Carnes, Professor of History at Barnard College, the RTTP curriculum has been implemented by faculty at hundreds colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad since dissemination began in 2001."

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A representative of the Spanish emperor speaks to the crowd during the Trial of Galileo.

RTTP gives students the opportunity to step out of the classroom and into the shoes of people in the past to engage directly with their ideas and controversies.  They react to the texts, they do not reenact.  Unlike a reenactment, where the outcome is predetermined, RTTP is not scripted; the students must guide the development of events and may come to a conclusion that is historically plausible if not the historical outcome.  In this way students learn not only about the events, but the wider range of motivations and historical contingencies that influence events.

To learn more about RTTP, you can visit the Reacting to the Past website, and see this video of Dr. Robert Goodrich discussing RTTP at NMU.