History As Art, History As Science

3738 words - 15 pages

"History," Tosh tells us, "as a disciplined inquiry aims to sustain the widest possible definition of memory, and to make the process of recall as accurate as possible, so that our knowledge of the past is not as confined to what is immediately relevant. The goal is a resource with an open-ended application, instead of a set of mirror-images of the present." (Tosh, 2) The process of creating history, then, is less of an art and more of a science. It requires careful consideration and calculated analysis of the facts. Less poetic than journalistic, the writing of history aims to clearly present these facts, their impact in their own time, and their implications for today.However ...view middle of the document...

This I regard as history's highest function, to let no worthy action be uncommemorated, and to hold out the reprobation of posterity as a terror to evil words and deeds." (Tacitus, 3.65) His work began with Augustus in 14 AD and ended with Nero in 68 AD Tacitus' life is generally quoted from 55 AD to 116 AD. While he was writing about history relatively contemporary to his life, it cannot be said that he lived through it. Thucydides, also set out to record what he considered to be the greatest moment in history in The History, for lack of a better title, as he did not give it one. However, the Peloponnesian War, his main concern ran from roughly 430 BC to 404 BC, Thucydides himself lived from roughly 466 BC to 409 BC. His work, then, is a contemporary's account of what happened. He states himself that he decided to write about the war as soon as it began because he hoped it would be glorious."Thucydides, an Athenian, wrote the history of the war between the Peloponnesians and the Athenians, beginning at the moment that it broke out, and believing that it would be a great war, and more worthy of relation than any that had preceded it. This belief was not without its grounds. The preparations of both the combatants were in every department in the last state of perfection; and he could see the rest of the Hellenic race taking sides in the quarrel; those who delayed doing so at once having it in contemplation. Indeed this was the greatest movement yet known in history, not only of the Hellenes, but of a large part of the barbarian world--I had almost said of mankind." (Thucydides, 1.1) The construction of their works shares some things in common. Figures in both histories give speeches, however, it is evident that neither Tacitus nor Thucydides bothered themselves by giving accounts of these speeches verbatim."With reference to the speeches in this history, some were delivered before the war began, others while it was going on; some I heard myself, others I got from various quarters; it was in all cases difficult to carry them word for word in one's memory, so my habit has been to make the speakers say what was in my opinion demanded of them by the various occasions, of course adhering as closely as possible to the general sense of what they really said. And with reference to the narrative of events, far from permitting myself to derive it from the first source that came to hand, I did not even trust my own impressions, but it rests partly on what I saw myself, partly on what others saw for me, the accuracy of the report being always tried by the most severe and detailed tests possible. My conclusions have cost me some labor from the want of coincidence between accounts of the same occurrences by different eye-witnesses, arising sometimes from imperfect memory, sometimes from undue partiality for one side or the other. The absence of romance in my history will, I fear, detract somewhat from its interest; but if it be judged useful...

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