History And Memory Essay

4411 words - 18 pages

History and Memory

‘Is there such a thing as “history” which is more objective than memory?’

For many years now there has been a strong debate, as regarding wether or not there is such a thing as ‘history’ that is more objective than memory. Due to memories completely subjective nature, history although also being somewhat subjective, it is a great deal more objective than memory. To discuss such a statement first one must define the terms ‘history’, ‘objective’ and ‘memory’. The Macquarie Dictionary defines the term ‘memory’ as:“ the mental capacity or faculty of retaining and reviving impressions, or of recalling or recognising previous experiences. A mental impression retained; a recollection.” For the purpose of this essay assume history to be; the knowledge of what happened, the record or expression of what occurred.” The term “objective” refers to being free from personal feelings or prejudice, unbiased. The idea of objectivity involves a belief in ‘the reality of the past, and [to] the truth as correspondence to that reality.’ In the light of such definitions memory is entirely subjective, with no elements of objective truth. Laurel Holliday’s book entitled Children’s Wartime Diaries illustrates how memory is composed of and subjective to ones current emotions and circumstances. Caroline Baum in her article The Children’s Ark and Mark Baker in his novel The Fiftieth Gate both use history and memory to reconstruct their parents past. Throughout their journey of discovering their parents’ history both authors discern the subjective elements of memory and discern memories subjective characteristics. Such characteristics as personal recall, bias feelings, fragmentation, gaps, forgetfulness and emotions involved with memory add to its complete subjective nature. History although being more objective than memory, also has a number of subjective characteristics. David Irving’s web site includes a document entitled ‘Did Six Million Really Die?’ This document illustrates how histories foundation on evidence constrains it partially to subjectivity. The Sydney Jewish Museum illustrates how historians know the past to be; not the past as it was in itself but the past as it appears from its traces in the present. Despite such subjective characteristics, history is more objective than memory. The fact that a historian’s view of history can never be completely objective does not mean that descriptions of the world cannot tell anything objective about it. The Fiftieth Gate demonstrates how to some extent the nature of archive documents cause them to reasonably reliable and objective and when the past is well supported by abundant evidence it is reasonable to say that the history being presented is objective. The Sydney Jewish Museum in addition illustrates how history unlike memory has a systematic organised structure, which inevitably adds to its’ objective nature. As a result of memories complete subjectivity, history although also...

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