Historians Are in the Business of Telling Essay

  • Length: 6 pages
  • Sources: 10
  • Subject: Teaching
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #62878978

Excerpt from Essay :

Historians are in the business of telling a storied past based on the collection of information revealed through the search for knowledge. Now knowledge is not truth, and the application of science is to search for the truth as can be best explained testing and understanding within bounded constraints. Therefore, the forms of evidence used by historians are not based on, or not always based on, scientific merit. One must remember the job of a historian is to recount a story and not scientific fact.

Historians engage explaining events by using primary and secondary evidence to describe the chronology of events. The primary historical sources include the word of mouth, either from the actual witness to the event, the active participant in the event, or as is passed on down via oral tradition to a chosen societal member whom then is responsible for the history. Should this individual then write a book or scribe the story for others to read, this source will then become a secondary source. Unless written by the primary historical source, all books and literature regarding historical events, considered as secondary historical sources. [1: http://www.libraries.iub.edu/index.php?pageId=1483]

Academic institutions within Australia have had the task of collating information regarding the social history of Australia and Australians. The methods used in this case include archives (Griffith University, 2010), which are historical documents of events that usually are held within a library or historical research center. Oral history (Griffith University, 2010), which again is the tradition of recanting a first-hand experience, rich and detailed and as factual as one's experience and memory, of a particular historic moment or event to an individual whom is authorized to pass on the 'official' account of that particular piece of history.

According to a course outline document published by Griffith University (2010), "Many historians would object to the idea of using myths or legends as historical data. However, the frequent retelling of events in the past often turns them into legends, such as the Anzac legent, or the story of Simpson and the Donkey. On a more sombre note, among the major sources of information for historical research are public archives. They are established by act of parliament at federal and State level to store and preserve government documents for future reference by government agencies themselves, and by the public." (Griffith University, 2010)

Question 2

The gaps and silences in our history either collective or culture specific, are major obstacles to understanding key moments and events that complete the historic timeline. For instance, due to imperialism of the Mayan Culture and subsequent destruction from rather unknown and suspect causes perhaps related to famine, there are historic records that inform modern society to the technical knowledge of their civilization that perhaps would benefit contemporary modern society.

And according to Curriculum Imperialism, gaps possibly already exist in much of what is known to be written history. The gaps were filled by oral tradition and what is thought to have occurred based on the best available evidence that doesn't indicate otherwise. This, according to Curriculum Imperialism, "A lecturer in Australian studies observed that "history does not exist as a record set in stone. It is contested, reinterpreted and rewritten as more evidence is uncovered and as new ways of describing past events are devised." (Quanchi, 1994)

Gaps in the historic timeline are challenged by historians and evidence must then indicate whether the challenger is correct in that either more evidence is needed to consider the status quo position or that here is sufficient evidence to now consider an alternative historical account. The challenging of stories throughout history is due also to political power and pressure to promote one historic outcome over another. For instance, a historical account of a battle between two nations will have similarities and differences between two educational institutions in their respective countries.

The Gaps in our histories tells us that there is more to humans collective history than what currently meets the eye. Humans throughout history have turned to the Biblical accounts to verify historic accuracy of human records. The interesting parallels between Biblical and historical accounts eventually netted a movement to control the spread of religion and the information relayed in text to followers. Most notably this occurred with the Roman Catholic Church which at the Vatican, is essentially a repository of historical information regarding the history of man and the Roman Catholic records pertaining to the creation.

Question 3

The authors apply various forms of authoritative evidence to present an argument for an idea regarding the view of a nation from a historical viewpoint. The arguments are supportive of an account that has historic precedence in the historic context of societal development. According to Schafer (1995) 'The Many Fates of Eliza Fraser', is a legend of Mrs. Elisa Fraser and according to Schafer (1995), "This is one reason why Eliza Fraser is remarkable. She is one of the very few women -- along with Caroline Chisholm, Daisy Bates, and Louisa Lawson - to have walk on roles on the stage of an Australian mythology of nationhood." (Schaffer, 1995)

"At a narrative of nation, the story revolves around questions of national identify. Identify requires difference. In the Australian myths of nationhood the boundaries and categories of differences are multiple and interconnected. They include: women (in relation to white men), Britons (in relation to native-born white Australians), the middle class (in relation to the working class Irish), and Aborigines (in relation to white culture)." (Schaffer, 1995)

"Nietzsche wrote in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War and his critique of contemporary history rested on the conviction that the Germans of his day were in danger of succumbing to what he called 'a malignant historical fever'. A nation preoccupied with the past, he believed, would become incapable of seizing control of its destiny." (Davison, 1988)

Question 4

Historians are subject to internal biases regarding to viewpoint and presentation of data findings and arguments. Historians do not investigate and test hypothesis against scientific evidence. The data gathered is often second hand account or if lucky, an archaeological discovery will provide proof of evidence of specific activity in an area, and historians are then left to piece together the evidence presented in what is primary evidence of historical activity.

The frame of reference presents the body of bias inherent to the historian. Based on what may be incorrect a priori information, the historian will investigate the new evidence and authorize a viewpoint on the probable events related to the time period in question. The evidence has ranged from word of mouth to archival, to archaeological, to legends and myths. The modern day element of Ufology is often based on the practice of historian research.

Question 5

The importance of ascertaining the authorship of a set of documents, whether archival or historical records recovered from a discovery, establishes the frame of reference for the work and perhaps the origin of the literature and the potential influence and relation the documents had on society. The author will also reveal the potential reason for producing the document.

Additionally, the time period of when a document is written provides a verification of the claims stated within the document. Should historical dating methods reveal a document to be written in the 17th century about a first-hand account of events during the 12th century, then the researcher knows the document to be a fake and at best a summary of a second-hand account of the event in question.

According to Schafer (1995), "A major problem for the modern reader is the various ways in which Elias Fraser has been interpreted by journalists, historians, balladeers, novelists, painters and other commentators over nearly 160 years -- that is, as an innocent victim. Biographies might tell the story from 'her' side and see her in herole…

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