In her 1983 book, Natalie Zemon Davis, a historian with a special interest in gender studies, examines the role of Martin Guerre's wife Bertrande in their fraudulent marriage. Davis argues that Bertrande plays a key part in the deceit and readily goes along with it. Her book helped spur a shift in the way historians viewed past events generally, and the role of women in a period where documentary evidence was lacking. She daringly used her imagination to reinterpret the story.
It was the vast frontier stretching out to the west of the developed land on the North American continent that shaped the American character - and the course of US history. That's the argument in historian Frederick Jackson Turner's 1893 essay, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History". Anthologized and reprinted many times, it gave historians a new lens with which to analyze the United States.
Note: This is a summary and analysis of the book and not the original book. With 1962's Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life, Philippe Ariès didn't just produce the first history of childhood. He also helped popularize the idea that history should focus on ordinary people. Studying the demographic and cultural evolution of modern society was his life's work, and this book was his most significant contribution.
What is the past - and what can we really know about it? This is the big question that 20th-century French historian Lucien Febvre works his way through in 1942's The Problem of Unbelief. Relying on his own innovative technique championing "problem-based history", Febvre focuses specifically on 16th-century French writer François Rabelais to answer one controversial question: Was Rabelais, as historians had always agreed, really one of his country's first atheists?