Historical Perspective Essay

1570 words - 6 pages

Historical Perspective

Unfortunately, all most Americans know about the event known as Bloody Sunday, they learned from U2's smash hit, "Sunday Bloody Sunday." The source of this song's popularity stems from its ability to evoke widespread sympathy for Irish by painting an unforgettable picture of death and despair in the minds of each of its listeners. So what is unfortunate about this song being the primary source of historical knowledge concerning Bloody Sunday for most Americans? It is unfortunate not because of its lack of information or authenticity, but because of its lack of historical perspective.

Essayist Jane Tompkins addresses this idea of perspecitivism by citing the changing representation of colonial American Indians in historical texts dating from 1964 to 1978. According to Limerick, in historical texts from the early 1960s, Indians weren't represented at all; they were "simply beneath notice" (65). By the late 1960s Indian culture, albeit "an inferior culture" (65), was finally acknowledged. In the early 1970s Indians "were the more or less innocent prey of the power-hungry whites" (65), but not until 1978 did Indians become "complicated, purposeful human beings, whose lives were spiritually motivated to a high degree" (66). Tompkins argues that because every historical account is a product of its author's perspective, it is important to analyze varying sources, including those of the traditionally under-represented. What I found in my research of Bloody Sunday is that in our efforts to account for the traditionally under-represented perspective, we have absentmindedly omitted the dominant perspective instead. This omission will undoubtedly cause the same problems that omitting the traditionally under-represented perspective caused in the past.

Before we analyze the events of Bloody Sunday by examining the discrepancies between and amongst the dominant and the traditionally under-represented perspectives, we must first examine the sources’ consistencies. Although the sources may disagree on the details of the confrontation, all agree that British troops killed 13 Irishmen and wounded 17 others in Derry, Northern Ireland on January 30, 1972. And although the sources may argue over its legality, all agree that these Irishmen were participating in a public demonstration against internment (imprisonment without trial) that was organized by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. Finally, even though the sources may contend its fairness, all agree that the Widgery Tribunal that was set up to make a judicial enquiry of the event found the British officers innocent due to inconclusive evidence as to whether or not those killed were armed (McClean 1).

With a solid, objective historical foundation, we can now begin our analysis of Bloody Sunday by first examining the traditionally under-represented perspective. Generally speaking, the traditionally under-represented perspective is the minority perspective or the...

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