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@hwbrands Tweets
Workers wander dazed / Muttering, moaning, cursing / What is to be done? (Depression of 1870s)

Tweeting History, One Haiku at a Time

In 2009, convinced that history can be told in any form, H.W. Brands embarked on a project to tweet the history of America in haiku. Four-and-a-half years and nearly 500 tweets later, Brands has managed to recount the American story up to the 19th century, with no plans of stopping anytime soon.

Brands is a professor of history at UT and a prolific writer who has published 25 books covering American history and politics, two of which were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.

But he believes that compelling stories can take a variety of lengths and forms.

“I have long been telling my students that you can write a history of the world in 800 words or 8 million words; it’s just a matter of how much detail you include,” Brands says.

Inspired by his own advice and curious about Twitter’s storytelling potential, Brands set out to tell the “American saga 17 syllables at a time.”

The haikus have also found a place in Brands’ classroom, where he occasionally uses the tweets to spark discussions. But he adds that Twitter and other online outlets should extend teaching beyond the classroom audience.

“I feel that those of us who teach at a public university have a particular responsibility to make what we do accessible and valuable to people who don’t ever come into the classroom,” Brands says. “My Twitter business is a small step in that direction.”

Follow the saga @hwbrands.


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