Saturday, April 24, 2010

Raw History

We cannot change history. Current history can be remembered, written about, described, annotated. Current events can be photographed, audio-taped, videotaped, captured in all of its raw detail, but what has occurred cannot be changed.

One of the problems I am seeing is the revising of the accounts of history. Often, this is done by placing current personal, social and cultural thinking upon past events. There is a difference between interpreting and revising history. Those who interpret history try (maybe unsuccessfully) to understand the events through the filter of the understood cultural norms of the time and place. Based upon the best available evidence, and a thorough examination of the evidence, the reasons for the historical events may take shape and lead to an interpretation. Interpretation is never arbitrary, haphazard or based upon a personal, emotional world-view. Revisionist history passes judgment on historical events using a foundation of current moral/emotional standards and individual thinking.

This is a simplistic explanation for a far-ranging problem. This problem encompasses current events and ancient history. It is social, political, anthropological, religious. I do not approve of someone who does not understand how I think interpreting my actions based upon their view of the world and our culture.

When choosing historical materials for a public library, do we select based upon the perception of a public desire to read anything without taking into consideration the authors personal agenda? Do we take the time to select material which will stand the test of time? Are we buying because the author is an expert or just popular, or maybe a popular expert?

I'm beginning to prefer raw history but I'm afraid it is becoming harder to find such material unaltered by modern insensibilities.


Gerald F. Ward

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