Do you believe everything that you read in the history books?

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  1. loveofnight profile image79
    loveofnightposted 5 years ago

    Do you believe everything that you read in the history books?

    From time to time I hear someone say that history is not always accurate. That the books are written by imperfect men who want to give credit to themselves. What do you think?

  2. Cleio profile image77
    Cleioposted 5 years ago

    As an historian, one of the first lessons you learn is that history is subjective. We base ourselves on (mostly) written sources, that are in themselves imperfect. It's all about interpretation.

    You must consider your source. An eyewitness to any event will be looking at it from a certain perspective. Their account is going to be coloured by their own personal beliefs, their own place in what is happening. They might even be trying to deliberately get a certain point across. The historian must be aware of this and take it into account when analysing the data available. Sometimes two different sources can state facts that directly contradict each other. It is difficult to extract the truth.

    Historians, though we supposedly strive for objectivity, are really no better anyway. History is not an exact science, and we cannot claim to have absolute facts. All we can try to do is interpret the information that we have, but we too, are going to be influenced by our own experiences and even just the time we live in. Language can be a big barrier, with words and phrasings changing meaning. Morals and values change over time, and things that were normal once have become despicable to us. For example, it is very difficult to carry out an academic discussion of slavery without getting into very emotional and thus subjective territory. One of my lecturers in my undergraduate degree regularly received death threats as a result of his work in that area.

    History is a discussion without end.

    1. loveofnight profile image79
      loveofnightposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      you have made some very valid and interesting points,thanks for your response.

  3. profile image0
    mbuggiehposted 5 years ago

    As a history, I know that history is not a collection of facts or a collection of events. History is the result of an effort to make sense out of the facts and events; to make sense of facts and events in terms of a narrative form.

    That narrative form is not  and cannot be what some like to refer to as "objective". That narrative form is subjective and its subjectivity results from many sources including but not limited to the experiences of the historian; the training of the historian; the context in which the historian has lived; the mechanisms for interpretation available to the historian.

    I think what we strive for is not "objectivity", but clarity of thought and of consistency between the facts and events we examine and the interpretation that we derive from those facts and events. In addition, I think we (at least professional historians) strive for authenticity and intellectual honesty in our work; for meaningful conversation with the reader about something of interest to us both (writer and reader).

    As for history books: What one reads in any book is only as "good" as its author. Some history books are better than others; some are authentic efforts; some are shams; some are deserving of respect; some are a disgrace to the profession.

    1. loveofnight profile image79
      loveofnightposted 5 years agoin reply to this

      you have truly given me words for thought and ponder, thank you so much for sharing.


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