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The Practice Of History Essay

1482 words - 6 pages

Historians face a large problem when studying history. Because history cannot be completely value free and objective, examining one source to gain the truth is not possible no matter how detailed it may be. They must call upon many different sources and analyse each one carefully trying to see past any bias and attempting to look at them with as much objectivity as possible. Breaking them up and analysing them intricately is the best way of coming as close as possible to truth of history. No matter how much historians analyse and decipher, there will inevitably be bias in one form or the other and it will not be 100% accurate to the truth.
To have 'value free' history is something that has been argued over since the start of historiography. Historians such as Cicero and Herodotus tried to distinguish between more and less reliable accounts to try and get a true unbiased account of history. It is hard to have value free history because any source we encounter was created in the past by a person; this person may have created the source with motives. These motives would not reflect the true representation of the events that unfolded. Historians are also biased when reading and deciphering sources. Their job is to discover and analyse history through evidential traces left behind by people. Establishing what happened, when and how. But elements of their personal viewpoint and bias towards what they are studying become apparent in their analysis of sources. When you study a source there is no way of telling if you are correct in your interpretation of the source as the creator has likely long since died. The study of history is more like educated guesswork based on lots of other sources pointing towards the same or a similar conclusion (Carr, 1967). To paraphrase Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, when we study history we are effectively forcing the historical events through a lens which in effect defines what we see; the very act of studying something defines and changes it. This is true of quantum mechanics the same as it is true of history. We can never have all of the evidence, there are always gaps. What happened in the ‘gaps’ may be irrecoverable or may be open to several opinions, each sustainable from the evidence which may or may not exist. Different academics may well argue passionately for one or another of these. This is not the hallmark of a wholly objective discipline.
An example of a primary source would be 'netherlandish school' which is an oil painting of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke. It was painted in 1565 which was just before the Earls death in 1570. This painting shows the Earl wearing fine Italian made armour. This armour was used in ceremonies at the time and would not have been worn to war. It shows us what type of armour the nobility were using at the time. The painter is not identified and potential problems are that we do not know if the painter has omitted or changed anything about the painting that may be...

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