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Evaluate Empiricism As An Ideology And Methodology For Writing History.

1257 words - 5 pages

‘…Agreement among historians is remarkably difficult to achieve, and historical events are open to a multiplicity of interpretations.’1 When writing history, it is difficult to conspire up one, objective and truthful view upon an event. It is clearly evident that ‘historians down the ages have held widely differing views on the purposes to which these things were to be put, and the way in which the facts they presented were to be explained’2The problematic nature of reconstructing history can be attributed to the problems associated with the current trend of modern historians to challenge and question the past. Through the reconstruction of history over time, it is evident that the meaning of history, the way it is recorded and interpreted has changed over time. It is through this realisation that historians come to understand that each time period has its own influence on the ways in which composers interpret and choose to reconstruct the past. ‘In medieval and early modern times, many historians saw their function as chronicling the working-out of God’s purposes in the world’. 3Empiricism has its origins from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This time has been defined as the scientific revolution, a period in which science prospered. It is here where scientific enquiry became more so prevalent and this ideology was carried through the eighteenth century.Through the work of post-modernists, the theory of knowledge aspect has been argued. Leopold Von Ranke made a multiplicity of arguments regarding empirical values. Ranke himself ‘intended that each historical period should be understood on its own terms’4. This means that when studying the past, we must judge an historian’s opinion based on the context of their time. Through the examination of historical practices over time, it has proven difficult to provide society with an accurate portrayal of the truth.Each composer of history has utilised differing techniques to illustrate an interpretation of the past. For example, ancient historians such as Herodotus interpreted history through story telling, incorporating elements of myth, which is a reflection of that societies beliefs, values, customs and the audience he was writing to. This is a stark contrast to the techniques used by Von Ranke, who argued that historians should only use primary sources, therefore they should not use second hand accounts. Von Ranke also believed ‘that the past could not be judged by the standards of the present’5. This essentially means that historians should be impartial when interpreting history, not effected by beliefs or prejudices.These principles applied by Von Ranke gave history a definitive direction. It is essentially summarised in his quote ‘ Wie es eigentlich gewesen’, which means ‘how it essentially was’6. Von Ranke wanted to know the real truth, he wanted to understand the past in the differing contexts in which...

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