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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

the historian's role

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The Historian’s Role


Keeping a record of the past and transmitting it into the present time period is a difficult and challenging job. This is the assignment of the historian, reconstructing and piecing together articles of time. However, many factors are involved and his/her application of facts distributed to the people as vital information is and will be skewed to their environment, resources, personal experiences…etc. As all these facts are collected and brought back in reflection the historian discriminates upon selection and puts certain information into a more focused inspection.


“Historians are necessarily selective (1).” Historians integrate their own perspective opinions with facts. Therefore, not all historians are neutral and objective because their record of history is distinct to their resources and their environment. Their class, social positioning, ethnicity, and hierarchy influence and direct the nature and tone of a historian’s recorded historical facts. History is never given or reported “pure” because a transformation occurs during its traveled acknowledgment of existence. Information is absorbed and reported from all angles of society. If you look at the documentation of the “cold war” America’s perspective of the nuclear arms race is far different from the perspective of Russia’s. Each side’s interpretations of transpired events became directly affected by where the historian lives, whom they are, what they believe in, how they absorbed the information, and applied its importance to history. Historians attempt to simply show “how the past really was,” with recording and translating events into historical information their personal biases are included into the accepted historical fact. So when the historian presents a fact they only know what they have and exclude many other factors that are not as important and focus on their shared information as absolute truth to us the readers and go along with the accepted value as an absolute fact. Historians shape, mould, and create facts with their opinions with the slightest manipulations of words to create an image uniform with their own belief system.


Another problem dealt and faced by the Historian is their selection of context when speaking of the past changes the whole interpretation and imaginative understanding of the past.. They did not live or can’t remember what it really was like back in the days, so they must figure and manage how it was. “ No document can tell us more than what the author of the document thought (4).” Historians decipher and piece together what they believe occurred or direct the idea or topic in a directional process that makes sense to him/her. In the article “The Historian and His Facts” E.H. Carr refers to a Gustav Stresemann, the Foreign Minister of Weimar Republic whose Secretary organized the more successful policies and events in his career to depict him in a favorable more positive light. Any moves or actions by his opponents would look pale in comparison to what he has achieved. Not everything is fully and equally represented or observed with great importance by a Historian, they look for a more scientific basis when approaching topics and get conclusions from the facts that they do have. A historian blind of their ignorance of a subject “simplifies and clarifies, which selects and omits” information into accepted set of historical facts. Historians develop a fact from what they thought.


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Historians, as well as ourselves, “can view the past, and achieve our understanding of the past, through the eyes of the present (0).” In our textbooks “war” and “revolution “is more often than not seen in history textbooks and ancient historians use “polis” and plebys” when speaking or commenting on a past period. The use of language by historians is a barrier that prevents the historian from being neutral. Speaking in different tones in respect to time periods are hurdles that a historian goes through on a common basis. When communicating with other people especially of different ages a subtle and sometimes loud difference can be seen when speaking of the past. We all have different versions of how things went down or occurred in history and this is where language biases are integrated and used. The historian belongs to the present and can’t escape the fact that even though he/she writes of the past they critically think and incorporate conditions of the present moment when they write of and for the past.


The history you shared in books isn’t the whole truth, but an interpretation of what could have or did go on from that particular perspective or bird’s eye view. It is in the hands of historians where many people look to create an image and paint the events of the past. We must realize that in our expert-driven society people need to examine not only the facts focused on all or as many factors involved and know that there are biases incorporated into historical facts. Not every fact is an acceptable truth, but an interpretive one. The historian works in a “give and take” method when writing facts molding to his interpretation and vice versa. History is constantly changing and transforming once facts are placed in the hands of a historian because ‘the historian and the facts of history are necessary to one another( )” they work hand in hand to give an interaction of the present to the past. Historians use their core of interpretive thought and surround it with a pulpy bulbous circle of facts for us to feast on..


Bibliography


What is History? The Historian and His Facts


E.H. Carr (pp1, 4, 0, ).


Bibliography


What is History? The Historian and His Facts


E.H. Carr (pp1, 4, 0, ).





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