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What is history

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Introduction

What is history History accounts what happened in the past. It is the academic discipline, which seeks to construct accounts of, and to provide explanations for, what happened in the past. Historical evidence The historian is chiefly directly concerned with documentary evidence of the past. Written sources are divided by historians into primary and secondary sources. Secondary sources are historical writings: articles or books attempting to reconstruct or interpret the past. The written source material which constitutes direct evidence is referred to as primary sources. A historian needs to gather primary sources for the period he is studying, but merely collecting them is not enough. He will need to ensure that this source is authentic: that it is what it purports to be and is not a forgery. He will also need to ensure that the source is reliable. T.E. Lawrence wrote: "... documents are liars. No man ever tried to write down the entire truth of any action in which he was engaged " A document is just the material upon which the historian needs to get to work; it does not speak for itself. ...read more.

Middle

The 19th century German historian Leopold von Ranke saw it his duty as a historian to "show it how it really was". It is now clear that such objectivity is not possible for several reasons: * Selection: firstly, history is based upon the selection of the facts. We mostly know of the history of ancient Greece from Athenian viewpoint . we have no Theban, Corinthian or Spartian chronicle of the Peloponnesian war to compare with Thucydides account, * Systematisation: as we have seen, evidence is always collected, evaluated and interpreted in terms of a pre-existing theory which guides research. The danger is that interpretative pattern will be imposed upon the data, determining which evidence is significant, and worth taking into account, and which is not. * Point of view: history is always written from some particular point of view, Collingwood argued that there is no "objective viewpoint": "St Augustaine looked at history form the point of early Christian; Tillamont form that of a 17th century Frenchman: Gibbon from that of an 18th century Englishman; Momsen from that of 19th century German. ...read more.

Conclusion

Usually the motive for a war was thought to be a monarch's desire for vengeance against an enemy who had previously offended him. Thomas Carlyle stated , "the history of the world is but the biography of great men". Such approach can lead to psychologism, the attempt to understand history through psychology or even the psycho-analysis. This leads to absurd attempts, for example, to explain the holocaust by reference to Hitler's relationship with his mother. Other historians tend to prefer deep, underlying social causes. H.S.Chamberlin argued that racial characteristics were the dominant factor in history, Marx stressed the importance of economical rivalries and class conflict, Freud argued that unconscious psychological forces: the sex drive and the death wish were the supreme movers of history. It does seem that the things that great men do often have results which they did not intend. It is clear that Mr. Gorbachev set out to reform the Soviet system, not destroy it. Most historians consider that great forces really dominate history and the apparent power of remarkable statesmen is an illusion. This seems to be a the conclusion reached by Tolstoy. The great historian Ranke suggested a compromise position: "General tendencies do not decide alone; great personalities are always necessary to make them effective" 1 2 ...read more.

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