Sunday, March 8, 2020
Hoa Essay Essays
Hoa Essay Essays Hoa Essay Essay Hoa Essay Essay WHY HISTORIANS DISAGREE: Facts Versus Interpretations http://amstd. spb. ru/Library/Current/amhist3. htm Brinkley, Alan. American History: A Survey. 12th Edition, McGraw Hill 2007 Unlike some other fields of scholarship, history is not an exact science. We can establish with some certainty many of the basic facts of history- that the United States declared its independence in 1776. for example; or that the North won the Civil War; or that the first atomic bomb was detonated in 1945. But wide disagreement remains, and will always remain, about the significance of such facts. There are as many different ways of viewing a historical event as there are historians viewing it. In reading any work of history, therefore, it is important to ask not only what facts the author is presenting but how he or she is choosing and interpreting those facts. Historians disagree with one another for many reasons. People of different backgrounds, for example, often bring different attitudes to their exploration of issues. A black historian might look at the American Revolution in terms of its significance for the members of his or her race and thus draw conclusions about it that would differ from those of a white historian. A Southerner might view Reconstruction in terms different from a Northerner. Social, religious, racial, ethnic, and sexual differences among historians all contribute to the shaping of distinctive points of view. Historians might disagree, too, as a result of the methods they use to explore their subjects. One scholar might choose to examine slavery by using psychological techniques; another might reach different conclusions by employing quantitative methods and making use of a computer. Because history is an unusually integrative discipline- that is, because it employs methods and ideas from many different fields of knowledge, ranging from science to the humanities, from economics to literary criticism- the historian has available an enormous range of techniques, each of which might produce its own distinctive results. One of the greatest sources of disagreement among historians is personal ideology- a scholars assumptions about the past, the present, politics, society. Historians who accept the teachings of Karl Marx and others that economics and social classes lie at the root of all historical processes will emphasize such matters in their examination of the past. Others might stress ideas, or the influence of particular individuals, or the workings of institutions and bureaucracies. A critic of capitalism, for example, might argue that American foreign policy after World War II was a reflection of economic imperialism. A critic of communism would be more likely to argue that the United States was merely responding to Soviet expansionism. Perhaps most important, historical interpretations differ from one another according to the time in which they are written. It may not be true, as many have said, that every generation writes its own history. But it is certainly true that no historian can entirely escape the influence of his or her own time. Hence, for example, historians writing in the relatively calm 1950s often emphasized very different issues and took very different approaches from those who wrote in the turbulent 1960s, particularly on such issues as race and foreign policy. A scholar writing in a time of general satisfaction with the nations social and political system is likely to view the past very differently from one writing in a time of discontent. Historians in each generation, in other words, emphasize those features of the past that seem most relevant to contemporary concerns. All of this is not to say that present concerns dictate, or should dictate, historical views. Nor is it to say that all interpretations are equally valid. On some questions, historians do reach general agreement; some interpretations prove in time to be without merit, while others become widely accepted. What is most often the case, however, is that each interpretation brings something of value to our understanding of the past. The history of the world, like the life of an individual, has so many facets, such vast complexities, so much that is unknowable, that there will always be room for new approaches to understanding it. Like the blind man examining the elephant, in the fable, the historian can get hold of and describe only one part of the past at a time. The cumulative efforts of countless scholars examining different aspects of history contribute to a view of the past that grows fuller with every generation. But the challenge and the excitement of history lie in the knowledge that that view can never be complete.