Title 5 – KQ 6: How far are the knowledge claims accepted beyond evidence in area of History?

KQ 6: How far are the knowledge claims accepted beyond evidence in area of History?

The testing and supporting methods  in area of History stipulate techniques and guidelines by which historians use primary sources and other evidence to research and write history essentially requiring  external criticism, internal criticism, and synthesis.

The 20th century historians Ernest Bernheim from Germany and Charles Langlois & Charles Seignobos (1898) worked on formulating ‘Historical Method ‘ and wrote comprehensive manuals on use of techniques and tests in historical research to bring in reliability to study of History. Starting from the facts retrieved from first hand documents ,these facts are then viewed by the historian from many different perspectives allowing to have an accurate and unbiased view .

The evidence in History needs to pass stringent tests before being accepted as completely reliable.  Louis Gottschalk , American historian laid down rule ,” “for each particular of a document the process of establishing credibility should be separately undertaken regardless of the general credibility of the author.” A fellow historian trustworthiness and reputation may be considered for the work or the document the evidence in question must be weighed on its own . Scandinavian historians Olden-Jørgensen (1998) and Thurén (1997) provided list of specifications for the source credibility stressing on originality , neutrality , multiple independent sources for the same event, eyewitness than testimony than hearsay.Regarding the explanations and Reasoning it is agreed upon that if by its scope and strength, an explanation , explains a large number and variety of facts, many more than any competing explanation, then it is likely to be true and acceptable.

Inspite of all the efforts to make methods and processes reliable and credible over the past centuries , Area of History is still plagued by problems of Generalisation , Myth building , influences from Nationalism , Nostalagia, Eurocentrism and Militarisation.

Humans tend to value the story over analysis. They like to assign responsibility, liability or ‘blame’; like interesting narratives with moral heroes, immoral culprits and satisfying endings; like to think of their own nations and societies as more advanced, civilised or culturally superior than others. The human mind has a tendency to make assumptions about the whole based on just a few of its parts (generalisation : form general conclusions from just a few facts or pieces of evidence). Most human populations contain enormous economic, ethnic and cultural diversity, so any conclusion about an entire group based on a small amount of evidence is likely to be flawed

“Non-historians, however, are often more interested in the value and meaning of a story than its historical accuracy. Over time many myths and stories have become accepted as historical fact, simply because they sound appealing or fit into a particular narrative. Many myths have come to be repeated in print, which lends them undeserved credibility.

While these distortions are not usually the work of historians, they tend to create a popular but misleading narrative of historical events like the American Revolution. Historians and history students must be wary of these myths. Just because a story is widely accepted as fact does not make it so.”

“Nationalists also place the needs and interest of their nation above those of other countries , which has fuelled unrest, international tension and war for centuries and also infected and distorted academic history and popular conceptions of the past. Even serious Many individuals historians find it difficult to accept or engage with criticism of their own country. Needless to say this can lead to an imbalanced view of the past by colouring or dominating historical narratives including overlooking violence and mistreatment of others. For example In Japan , the history textbooks ignore the atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in World War II.

Historians also need to be wary nostalgic claims and value judgements that weigh the past against the present with the strong tendency to view the past only with fondness and affection. Similarly Eurocentric histories , in the attempt to justify conquest and colonisation , have dominated the historiography and historical understanding through ignoring downplaying and disregarding the stories, contributions and achievements of non-European peoples presenting a narrow and skewed account of the past. Concerted efforts to have emphasis on a country’s military past leads to the militarisation of history which further fuels nationalist mythology, glorifies war and distorts public memory and historical understanding by intertwining it with sentiment and reverence for the dead.