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The Importance of History

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What is History?

There are many important steps that lead to the conclusion that all of history is an interpretation. Because history is an account of what happened in the past, we cannot know anything else but what was recorded. So, in reality, the only real factual history is what the witness of an event writes or says. This is known as first hand. However, because only an infinitesimal amount of history was actually recorded, this leaves historians to guess and write their interpretation. This proves that all of the history textbooks we read are only interpretations of the real events.

Another step that led to the conclusion that all of history is an interpretation is the fact that when historians write textbooks, only a limited amount of facts can be written. At least a fraction, if not, much of the actual information is excluded. A historian’s view of what is important and not important is also considered an interpretation. If any factual information is left out, it cannot be the account of the actual event. On the contrary, if a historian writes all the facts into one book, it would not sell.

The last piece of evidence of all of history being interpretations given by the book is different viewpoints. There are many books based on history and some of them may be biased. For example, a Republican author of a book based on politics may try not to take the Republican side of politics, but it is what he believes in and he may very well subconsciously lean toward the Republican side. A biased book is an interpretation from one viewpoint. The reliability is considerably low on such a book.

The reason why we should not just look up the definition of something is because even what the dictionary says could be an interpretation. Dictionaries are also written by humans, and therefore they are also susceptible of being interpretations. A dictionary is also just one source. Instead of just looking some up from one view, many viewpoints should be compiled and taught about.

Besides looking for possible bias of an author, other useful techniques historians may use when they read or write history is using many sources. When writing history, using different perspectives can abet writing a paper or a book that is not biased. When reading history, using more than one source can help get a better idea of what actually happened, safeguarding a historian from having a biased idea. Another benefit from using more than one source would be having a much more robust opinion, having read many views. As much as reading more than one source can take up more time, it will be mitigated to bias.

If history is only interpretation, the ultimate goal of work in a history course should be finding the truth. History is like an enigmatic puzzle except that it has missing pieces. Interpretations are merely what other people speculate the missing pieces to look like. The goal of a historian is finding the truth or the rest of the missing pieces. Of course, this daunting task cannot be achieved overnight or by one person, but by a union of historians.

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