Ideas on History


I have come to think of History more of a discipline rather than a series of continuing events and so I find myself thinking how it might become more than a boring drawl of facts and figures. Much of what people do goes unrecorded yet the detail in what is studied becomes more detailed and theoretical, bringing a kind of artistry to the subject. Not only the formation of argument and analysis of the given facts are the focus now but also the imagination of the interpreter. This is the soul of a history essay; it contains random elements to show the writer’s ability to make up the rest of the story in their head. In this strange sense, the first words a writer puts down are their original views on a question, their first response to the ideas and problems given. Is this initial response valuable?

Some people have spent their lives considering whether history is an art but I think it is, on one side a portrayal of an argument and on the other a demonstration of the abstract possibilities. To this extent what is history but a simplification of complex fragments of stories we collect? Does it matter if the story is fictitious? Our understanding of the intentions ancient Roman families is only relevant when there is need to understand subsequent events, otherwise the information is useless. You could feasibly write an essay on the inner workings of the governing structures of Middle Earth given enough information. Historical study is mainly driven by the argument so why does the subject need to be real?

The development of History should also allow for the extension of the imagination or non-historical argument. A question on ‘What would have happened if Hitler won the Second World War?’ would be horrible for some but to others a great chance to explore the possibilities of the time. One primary quality developed whilst studying history is the ability to show good argument from a series of sources, if this is the case the arguments could be based upon a fictional reality and so perhaps challenge the writers imagination and perception of the sources. Surely a historian could create a persuasive argument whether or not the information given to them is real. This perhaps blurs the lines between History and English Literature but that is a definite area that I think is of need of exploring. Progressing and challenging our ways of studying History is one way to keep from becoming monotonous and uninteresting.


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