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Is history pointless?

 
 
Reply Mon 25 Jan, 2010 02:17 pm
History is almost always affected by who is telling it. So how can we know what really happened. In fact, why does it really mattered what actually happened (fact) v.s. our perception of recorded history :brickwall:? I'd like thoughts on this.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 2,383 • Replies: 11
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kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Jan, 2010 05:56 pm
@Three dog,
Three_dog;122500 wrote:
History is almost always affected by who is telling it. So how can we know what really happened. In fact, why does it really mattered what actually happened (fact) v.s. our perception of recorded history :brickwall:? I'd like thoughts on this.


Well, according to the history of World War 1, Germany invaded Belgium. I have never heard anyone say that Belgium invaded Germany. Not even the Germans. So, I think we know what happened in this case. Don't you?

It matters for a number of reasons, but one of them is knowing the truth.
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jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Jan, 2010 06:32 am
@Three dog,
History, as the saying goes, is written by the victors. So they provide one perspective. It might look quite different from the perspective of those who were over-run or whose cultures were dispersed. But we often don't hear from them. I guess there are indisputable facts on the large scale that are not subject to any dispute, but there are many minor aspects of the narrative of history that can be told from a variety of viewpoints.

All that said, it still might be possible, and desirable, to arrive at an account of 'what really happened' by analysing the information you have from a number of viewpoints. I think that is very much the task of the historian.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Jan, 2010 07:27 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;122692 wrote:
History, as the saying goes, is written by the victors. So they provide one perspective. It might look quite different from the perspective of those who were over-run or whose cultures were dispersed. But we often don't hear from them. I guess there are indisputable facts on the large scale that are not subject to any dispute, but there are many minor aspects of the narrative of history that can be told from a variety of viewpoints.

All that said, it still might be possible, and desirable, to arrive at an account of 'what really happened' by analysing the information you have from a number of viewpoints. I think that is very much the task of the historian.


But not only by the victors. The Germans have written many histories of the two World Wars. And, from their point of view. That is one of those sayings that takes hold, although it is clearly not true. (I suppose it sounds critical and revisionist, so people love repeating it). Of course there can be (and are) many viewpoints. But that does not mean all of them are true, nor even plausible. In fact, Hitler gave an account of why Germany lost the first War. And that was, 1. A history written by the vanquished, and 2. False.
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jgweed
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Jan, 2010 07:50 am
@Three dog,
To make all history exclusively depend upon perspective is to ignore that part of history written as a "science" following rules and procedures established to attempt to make history as objectively as humanly possible. Beginning around the time of Ranke, historiography as an academic discipline has attempted to define such a methodology; modern writers of history, moreover, are cognizant that perspectives can influence interpretations, and consequently are more careful to consider this possibility in their own works. Lastly, historical interpretations, and the validity of the data supporting them, are subject to peer scrutiny and debate as with any scientific hypotheses.

One may debate whether one can learn from history either as a person or as a society, but it seems important for an individual to understand how the world in which he lives came to be. Adding this perspectival layer to one's life and one's thinking enlarges it, provides heroes and villians, and a temporal grounding for understanding one's situation.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Jan, 2010 11:26 am
@jgweed,
We talked about this at length in this thread.

My view on the issue (which is a good one, for sure), I put down in this post.

Thanks
0 Replies
 
Caroline
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Jan, 2010 11:33 am
@Three dog,
To me history is important to learn what went on before to understand things and how they came about, in the present.
HexHammer
 
  1  
Reply Sun 7 Mar, 2010 10:59 am
@Caroline,
Heed history to forge future. - HexHammer

History are much much than listen to bragging victors. It's also about economics, sience, psycology ..etc.

We can learn from disasters and see what we should avoid, what they did wrong, what they did right.

Too many disregard our history and makes repeated mistakes, which easily could be avoided.
0 Replies
 
Moloch
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Apr, 2010 11:22 am
@jeeprs,
At my very first History lecture, we were asked why people should study History. People gave off various answers which were, in short, 'we should study history because it is of utility'. I think this is a bad answer - how many historians actually started studying history so society can not make the same mistakes again? Historians study history because it's their career, or, hopefully, because it's fun. If it's fun, it's not pointless.
jeeprs;122692 wrote:
History, as the saying goes, is written by the victors. So they provide one perspective. It might look quite different from the perspective of those who were over-run or whose cultures were dispersed. But we often don't hear from them. I guess there are indisputable facts on the large scale that are not subject to any dispute, but there are many minor aspects of the narrative of history that can be told from a variety of viewpoints.

All that said, it still might be possible, and desirable, to arrive at an account of 'what really happened' by analysing the information you have from a number of viewpoints. I think that is very much the task of the historian.

History is not always written by the victors, but we can always independently assess claims made by the victors anyway. The biggest problems in history is knowledge gaps and trying to create a consistent, coherent picture from a wealth of sources and studies which can contradict each other in my experience.

History is not just a narrative approach as well. There are value judgements. For example, if you ask the question 'did living standards improve in the British Industrial Revolution?' you'd have to make judgements on what constitutes a standard of living. You'll also have to make evaluative judgements on questions like 'how significant was the Treaty of Versailles for Hitler's rise to power?' It's not just an empirical investigation, but an empirical investigation which makes you question significance, influence and more of events - whether they helped implicitly or explicitly and all sorts. It's an exciting part of history which is sometimes forgotten, despite how important it is to the subject.
0 Replies
 
khalid10
 
  1  
Reply Mon 3 May, 2010 10:54 pm
@Three dog,
The expariments of history are a light to help in our struggle to do whats right and wrong.When lions have theyre historians the storys of the hunt will always glorify the hunter:D
55hikky
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 May, 2010 11:20 am
@Three dog,
As introduced earlier by Hexhammer, moloch, caroline, it is to understand, in one word. I study history exactly for the reason hex and mol stated. I like to see what happened then, what happened now, and with this, make a form of moor's law with everything in life, not just data, such as intelligence (if there is one), disasters, riots, etc. In high school we teach like this, "Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 to end WW1." my question is, who were the ones (not country, exactly who) that wrote this, who influenced them, what does the individuals of similar hierarchy feel about this, was it a ubiquitous decision, what did lower ranking individuals feel before the signing, the higher, what about after it has been signed, did it do what the individuals who wrote it sought to do, if not why, were the lower ranking individuals who were pro treaty still proud, what happened that wasn't supposed to happen, what didn't happen, how did this effect the neighboring regions, global, propagation to today's life, would that same treaty be valid if done today, if 100 years earlier, was it seen as a good thing, was it a good thing now that we have hind sight. All of this insight is what should be accounted for when taking this one event. ...unfortunately history class are oblivious to all of this and obsess over cramming useless names, times and murders to their students most of the time and the MOST valuable concept of history which is value, morals, economics, psychology, statistics, virtue, philosophy is weeded away. Shame on the education system.
Of course this is due to the nature of America with a wide spectrum of backgrounds which inhibit accelerated teaching for all, but a luke, shotgun approach for all ages and sex.
I but then I believe this is rather consistent globally (a very blind assumption).
Considering that history covers econ, stats, philo, justice, bio, chem, engineering... THIS should be the MAIN discipline where english and science are secondary General Educations to compliment our understanding of history. but what do i know, i'm just a crazy baby in los angeles
0 Replies
 
sometime sun
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 May, 2010 03:56 pm
@khalid10,
Is history pointless?
No, because it is the only thing we can really point at.
0 Replies
 
 

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