Oral History - Articles - Making History
I suspect this is contrary to most people’s image of history. People generally think of history as a very objective discipline. This perspective dominated the field about a century ago, and most of us were led to believe this in the course of our education. We were taught that objective historians began to piece together a picture of the past, and every new generation of historians discovers new facts which alter our understanding of the past. With each generation, therefore, we get closer to the truth of history, but these refinements do not significantly alter the assured findings of science.
What is Social History? | History Today
Interestingly, Henry Ford's dictum that 'History is bunk' now itself forms part of human history. It has remained in circulation for 90 years since it was first coined. And it exemplifies a certain no-nonsense approach of the stereotypical go-ahead businessman, unwilling to be hide-bound by old ways. But Ford himself repented. He faced much derision for his apparent endorsement of know-nothingism. 'I did not say it [History] was bunk', he elaborated: 'It was bunk to me'. Some business leaders may perhaps affect contempt for what has gone before, but the wisest among them look to the past, to understand the foundations, as well as to the future, in order to build. Indeed, all leaders should reflect that arbitrary changes, imposed willy-nilly without any understanding of the historical context, generally fail. There are plenty of recent examples as well as long-ago case-histories to substantiate this observation. Politicians and generals in Iraq today – on all sides – should certainly take heed.
Significance is determined by the historian. The historian sorts through the evidence and presents only that which, given his particular world view, is significant. What a historian finds significant is not entirely a personal choice; it is largely shaped by his training and his colleagues. In order for a historian to have his works published, he has to receive the approval of his fellow historians. Therefore, the community of historians has a large say in deciding what about the past is significant. But historians are just as much a part of society as anyone else, and we are all greatly influenced by those around us. As a result, the community of historians tends to share the same notion of significance as is held by society as a whole. Therefore, historians tend to tell stories which reflect the dominant values of the society in which they live.
Rewriting Israel's History :: Middle East Quarterly
The turn towards 'narrative' in the social sciences and the increase in 'memory' studies across the arts and sciences offers oral historians new opportunities. And an important task for oral historians is to engage with narrative and memory work, and by doing so gain important allies that can sustain and further develop oral history.
by Efraim Karsh Middle East Quarterly June 1996, pp
For example, some people semi-concede the critics' case by saying things like: 'Well, History is not obviously useful but its study provides a means of learning useful skills'. But that says absolutely nothing about the content of the subject. Of course, the ability to analyse a diverse array of often discrepant data, to provide a reasoned interpretation of the said data, and to give a reasoned critique of one's own and other people's interpretations are invaluable life- and work-skills. These are abilities that History as a field of study is particularly good at inculcating. Nevertheless, the possession of analytical and interpretative skills is not a quality that is exclusive to historians. The chief point about studying History is to study the subject for the invaluable in-depth analysis and the long-term perspective it confers upon the entire human experience – the component skills being an essential ingredient of the process but not the prime justification.
Why Do Historians Disagree? - OpenLearn - Open University
Such educational processes are a long, long way from memorising lists of facts. It follows therefore that History students' understanding of the subject cannot be properly assessed by asking single questions that require yes/no responses or by offering multiple-choice questions that have to be answered by ticking boxes. Such exercises are memory tests but not ways of evaluating an understanding of History.
The Importance of History - Gutenberg College Great Books.
It is not that the historian can avoid emphasis of some facts and not of others. This is as natural to him as to the mapmaker, who, in order to produce a usable drawing for practical purposes, must first flatten and distort the shape of the earth, then choose out of the bewildering mass of geographic information those things needed for the purpose of this or that particular map.