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What Does the Historian Do?

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... HISTORY OF WOMEN as a category of cultural or ... Check if the evidence is authentic/genuine. Researcher must discover frauds, forgeries, hoaxes, inventions. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: What Does the Historian Do?


1
What Does the Historian Do?
  • The historian tries to identify facts about the
    past and then to come to conclusions about the
    past.
  • She/he objectively and systematically
  • finds,
  • interprets,
  • evaluates,
  • and synthesizes evidence.

2
History is a Representation of the Past
  • But representations may be hindered by
  • lack of ability of historian
  • lack of evidence
  • historians biases
  • historians interpretation
  • sheer desire to present a false picture

3
Types of History
  • History in terms of nations very common
  • But many other kinds of history too!

4
Sometimes Regional History is Studied
  • e.g.
  • Latin America
  • Eastern Europe
  • Middle East
  • South East Asia

5
Its more Fundamental Sometimes
  • e.g. a Civilization
  • Romans,
  • Greeks,
  • Europeans during the Middle Ages,
  • Moslem Civilization of North Africa,
  • Native American Civilization of South America.

6
Sometimes its Periods
  • Renaissance
  • Reformation
  • 30 Years War
  • The Enlightenment
  • The Dark Ages

7
More Specific Topics
  • Columbus discovering or rediscovering America
  • The Vietnam Conflict
  • Watergate
  • Salem Witch Trials
  • Battle of Leningrad
  • Battle of Agincourt

8
Topics are often Categorized
  • Intellectual history
  • Cultural history
  • Social history
  • Economic history
  • Religious history
  • Educational history
  • or, indeed, the history of any discipline

9
Many of these can be Subdivided
  • The HISTORY OF WOMEN as a category of cultural or
    social history
  • Historical analysis may be directed toward an
    individual, an idea, a movement, or an
    institution.

10
  • However, none of these can be studied IN
    ISOLATION.
  • Ignatius of Loyola cannot be studied apart from
    the Counter-Reformation and the whole area of
    Religious Teaching Orders.

11
Sometimes Questions can be very Broad
  • What caused societal revolutions in China,
    France, Russia?
  • How have major social institutions, like
    medicine, developed and changed over two
    centuries?
  • How have basic social relationships, like
    feelings about the value of children, changed
    over the centuries?
  • Is race declining in significance compared to
    social class as a major division in the U.S.?
  • Why did South Africa develop a system of greater
    racial separation as the U.S. moved toward
    greater racial integration?

12
How Sure Can we Be of "Facts?"
  • Historians who challenge generally accepted
    historical facts are often termed
  • revisionist
  • or radical
  • or leftist
  • or new historians.

13
Example of Revisionist Historian
  • Michael Katz contended that one of the primary
    rationales for education in mid-19th century MA
    was to serve the economic interests of the
    controlling classes and to frustrate democratic
    aspirations.

14
Facts
  • Battle of Waterloo was a fact
  • Made up of many smaller facts, i.e. facts as
  • Events
  • charges and retreats
  • heads smashed by cannon balls
  • orders shouted by officers
  • Objects
  • field guns
  • Food depots
  • Corpses

15
  • Also by IDEAS and VALUES held by each of the
    combatants.
  • And each of these facts as event, object, idea
    can be further subdivided.

16
NAPOLEON
  • We may be reasonably sure of
  • his place of birth
  • his date of birth
  • the physical scene at Waterloo

17
  • But what of
  • the morale at the battle?
  • the frustration leading to death of ex-emperor?
  • the depth of his love for Josephine?
  • why he wanted to be emperor?

18
Interpretation
  • Historians rely on records of events that were
    made by others, e.g.
  • journalist
  • court reporter
  • diarist
  • photographer

19
  • These recordings involve interpretive acts.
  • They involve certain biases, values, and
    interests of those who recorded them, i.e. they
    attended to some details and omitted others.
  • Thus, interpretation exists even before historian
    enters the picture.

20
Historian adds still another layer of
interpretation
  • She stresses or ignores certain data.
  • She organizes data into categories/patterns.

21
Historians Often interested in Causation
  • What caused fall of Roman Empire?
  • What caused American Civil War?
  • What caused emancipation of slaves?
  • These are not easy questions to answer!!

22
History often very Specialized
  • Historians who study the Depression of the 1930s
    need to have quite a sophisticated knowledge of
    economics.
  • Historians who study social mobility in the U.S.
    should be trained in aspects of social science.
  • Historians who study farming in Central America
    must have a strong knowledge of agricultural
    techniques.

23
Also Very Important
  • Statistical Techniques
  • Languages

24
SOURCES
  • Usually limited and indirect.
  • Historian is limited to what sources survive --
    usually most evidence has been destroyed.
  • A surviving building looks different in 1997 than
    it did in 1790.
  • For example, today it's in the "old style" back
    then it may have been very new.

25
Primary Sources
  • EXAMPLES
  • George Washington's uniform.
  • Book-keeping records of a 1920s tobacconist.
  • Anasazi rock drawings.
  • Handwritten letter of a 18th century engraver.
  • Log book of the Exxon Valdez.

26
Primary Sources Often Original Documents
  • e.g. Manuscripts
  • Charters
  • Laws
  • Archives of official minutes or records
  • Letters
  • Memoirs
  • Official publications
  • Wills
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Maps
  • Catalogues
  • Inscriptions
  • Graduation records
  • Bills, lists, deeds, contracts

27
Often Objects
  • Relics
  • Coins
  • Stamps
  • Skeleton
  • Fossils
  • Weapons
  • Tools
  • Utensils
  • Pictures
  • Furniture
  • Clothing
  • Coins
  • Food
  • Books
  • Scrolls

28
Also Art Objects
  • e.g.
  • Sculptures
  • Paintings
  • Pottery
  • Also
  • Films
  • Photographs
  • Buildings

29
Primary Sources often Oral Testimony
  • for example
  • Jimmy Carter on Iran hostages
  • Residents of South Boston on the busing period
  • Your grandfather on his boyhood on a Utah farm

30
Secondary Sources
  • Not ORIGINAL sources
  • No direct physical connection to event studied
  • Examples include
  • history books
  • articles in encyclopedias
  • prints of paintings or replicas of art objects
  • reviews of research

31
Secondary Sources Sometimes Categorized As
  • Intentional Documents
  • e.g. biographies, memoirs and yearbooks composed
    deliberately to present record of past.
  • Unpremeditated Documents
  • e.g. novels, paintings, everyday objects, letters
    not intentionally created to be utilized for
    historical evidence at a later date.

32
Preliminary Sources
  • e.g. an index to secondary and primary sources.
  • Such sources include Bibliographies, Databases,
    Encyclopedias etc.

33
External Criticism
  • Check if the evidence is authentic/genuine.
  • Researcher must discover frauds, forgeries,
    hoaxes, inventions.
  • Chemical analysis of paint, ink, paper,
    parchment, cloth.
  • Carbon dating of artifacts.

34
Ask Such Questions As
  • Was the knowledge the source aims to transmit
    available at the time?
  • Is it consistent with what is already known about
    author/period?
  • What about beautiful Greek coin just discovered
    and bearing the stamp of the date 499 B.C.?

35
Internal Criticism
  • Evidence is genuine, but can we trust what it
    tells us?
  • Does document present a faithful/true report?
  • Historian must search out BIAS (both
    "unconscious" as well as "conscious")

36
  • Was document's author a competent observer?
  • Was she too sympathetic or too adversely
    critical?
  • Was she pressured to twist or exclude facts?
  • Was documentary record made long after events
    described?
  • Does her story agree with that of other witnesses?

37
Presentism
  • The interpretation of past events using concepts
    and perspectives that originated in more recent
    times.

38
Very Different Treatments
  • Teaching of History in
  • Palestinian Schools
  • Israeli Jewish Schools
  • Zulu Schools
  • Afrikaner Boer Schools

39
Often a Western Cultural Bias
  • Most research is conducted by westerners.
  • Danger of western cultural bias and ethnocentrism.

40
Feminist History
  • Feminist Historians frequently question
    male-dominated assumptions and data on women in
    other cultures.

41
Recent Developments in Historical Writing
  • Change from political to social history
  • Many studies of
  • lives of women and children
  • slaves
  • ethnic groups
  • factory workers
  • the family, etc.

42
Quantitative History
  • e.g.
  • Statistical methods
  • Voting records
  • Population analyses
  • Literacy counts, etc.
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