Dec 04

Understanding History

  History is often simply described as  the ‘study of the past’, but  how do we approach the subject  and try to understand it?
  One approach attempts to move away from the old conventional attitude embodied in the ‘great man’ and ‘great nation’  model in our  understanding  of  history. Hitherto there has been too much reliance on secondary sources and  an almost exclusive use of the narrative approach. Modern historians realise that  history is not  ‘what happened in the past’ It is virtually impossible to know what happened in the past, but we can embark on a process that  uses primary or first hand sources. This information (evidence) comes to us in a raw pristine state and requires careful evaluation, polishing and weighing but in this process it challenges us to revise our current view of history (often based on secondary sources)  This approach provides us with new insights , ideas and explanations that  render our current perceptions of the past sadly inaccurate and wanting.  A good example of this is the impact made on our understanding of past events by the ever increasing  number of archaeological discoveries made in recent times. Henry_ford_1919Henry Ford is  attributed with having said “‘ ‘History is bunk!’ Perhaps that  phrase was valid in his heyday, but now it needs to be replaced by a new one:

“Bunk-> Debunk-> Rebunk!”

    An example of how the disciplines of Archaeology and Forensic science are contributing to establishing the "hard facts" of History BBC News - Mystery of 200-year-old British soldier found in the dunes of Holland.

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