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May 23, 2019, 06:38:18 am

Author Topic: History Extension Debating Thread (ie. how to develop your "voice")  (Read 14505 times)  Share 

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sudodds

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Hey guys!

Potentially the most important thing that a history extension student must do in order to smash this course is to develop their voice.

What do I mean by that? Well as much as having an extensive knowledge on the historians/historiographers and what they say is crucial, you don’t want to just be parroting their words throughout your essay. The overall aim of this course is for you to develop your own opinions, beliefs and perspectives, and to be able to argue them effectively (of course you can and you must bring in these historians/historiographers to back up your argument, but it should still be your argument). According to my own history extension teacher, his favourite thing about marking the HSC exam was that he never came across the same essay twice (apart from when he came across the dreaded chronology).

Only problem? Developing a voice is fk’n hard! I mean, how can these markers expect a bunch of 17/18 years olds who have only just been exposed to these new debates have completely well thought out opinions on these historiographical issues by half-yearlies, trials and even the HSC! The Major Work process will help, but its still a pretty mental expectation!

The only way that you can start to develop this voice is to actively engage with the debates. Wide reading of multiple perspectives is a must, as is DISCUSSION! Which gets me onto to the reason that I have created this thread :) My intention for this thread is to serve as hub to debate, discuss and deliberate over the various key debates and historiographical issues that you will be faced with throughout your journey in history extension. You’ll be able to practice and refine your ability to argue your points (a super handy skill in the exam), listen and absorb other students ideas, collate practical examples for paragraphs that go beyond the stock standard/textbook response, and best of all develop that voice early on that will allow you to nab that allusive E4!

To get you started, here is one of the most common debates that are brought up within the course. My opinions can be found within the spoiler - feel free to tear it to shreds  ;) Also feel free to suggest other topics to debate/discuss!

Can history be objective?
Spoiler
In my opinion? No. It is impossible to write wholly accurate and objective history, no matter how much historians want to claim that their account is "the truth and nothing but." Now I haven't (yet) fallen too far down the rabbit hole that is post modernism. I do believe that there are hard, undeniable facts of history/the universe. A chair is a chair. Hitler was the German leader during WWII. The Romans did invade Britain under Julius Caesar. etc. These are lower order facts - the who, what, when and where - and it is most often difficult to debate them. However, is history made up of lower order facts? NO! No one reads a history book to be given a list of dates and personalities. History is almost always much more focused on the higher order "facts" - the why and the how, and these are always fraught with debate. Yes Hitler was the German leader during WWII, but why was he able to develop such a strong power base? The Romans did invade Britain under Julius Caesar, but how did that impact upon the lives of ordinary Britons?

An objective perspective upon these higher order facts is not possible. And I'm not only talking about historians bias here. But something that a lot of people don't consider here is that the sources are biased also! Think of history is one massive game of Chinese whispers. Yes, some of this bias will be obvious, and can be taken into account through rigorous source analysis, but it can never be fully extinguished. There is also a bias in source selection, AND source creation (re. EH Carr's fishing analogy within his work 'What is History,' and John Vincent's 'The Intelligent Person's Guide to History'.

These are just a few of the reasons why I believe that it is impossible to write objective history (I could also go into linguistics, but for now this should be enough to generate some debate!)

I really encourage you to utilise this opportunity. Even if you’re not 100% confident with your argument, have a go! It’s better to maybe make a couple of mistakes (I use this term lightly given how subjective the subject is) here, on this judgement free thread that isn't being marked (obviously), rather than in your exam! Plus you may learn something that you never considered from someone elses response, that you will remember to add next time! A win-win situation!

Happy debating!

Susie

P.S. Non-history extension students are also more than welcome to join in on the fun! (word of warning though - the risk of falling into a historiographical, ideological and philosophical rabbit hole is high!)
« Last Edit: March 19, 2017, 11:32:54 pm by sudodds »
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Maraos

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Hey!  ;D
Love this thread idea.
So here is my view on the objectivity of history, and whether the truth can be found...

So my view is a little mixed. I personally believe that it is possible for the historian to remove any bias and agendas that they might possess before embarking on research and sifting through the sources. I think it is possible to be 100% objective, in the sense that a historian can gather all the sources on a particular topic and simply explain what the sources say about a particular event without adding their own take or perspective. Obviously sources are going to recount things in different lights (for example Plutarch's perception of the Spartan society is very patriotic and you can clearly tell that he is 'in love' with the society. Whereas Aristotle, from an Athenian perspective thinks that they are primitive and outright insane). To be objective the historian has to simply include both perspectives without including his/her view or altering what the records has said.

The problem is, how can we determine the 'truth'? Who's side presents the true account of events?
Can we trust Plutarch more than Aristotle?
This is where my view changes... I believe unless we travel faster than the speed of light  and go back in time :D :D we will never know the answer. Think about it... We will never know what truly happened, the only way to determine the historical truth is to experience the event yourself. Now it could be possible that an historian experienced the event themselves, recounted their experience and the record has survived in the archives. But the problem is the future historian will never be able to determine who's account is the historical truth...

Now obviously there are historical events where millions of people have experienced these events (eg: the holocaust). So in that sense I do believe that basic historical events can be 100% confirmed. For example, Rome was a major empire during antiquity conquering hundreds of nations, A man called Adolf Hitler ruled Germany after the first world war and was condemned with horrific human right abuses etc.

So i guess my view is a combination of the Rankean source gathering methodology, relativism, empiricism and a little bit of post-modernism (in the sense that the past cannot be 100% understood)   :)
 



« Last Edit: May 02, 2017, 07:02:16 pm by Maraos »
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sudodds

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Hey!  ;D
Love this thread idea.
So here is my view on the objectivity of history, and whether the truth can be found...

YES YES YES! You are officially my favourite human for posting on this thread :) Hopefully more will soon!

Quote
So my view is a little mixed. I personally believe that it is possible for the historian to remove any bias and agendas that they might possess before embarking on research and sifting through the sources. I think it is possible to be 100% objective, in the sense that a historian can gather all the sources on a particular topic and simply explain what the sources say about a particular event without adding their own take or perspective.

Ooooo very strong judgement - love it! Not sure I agree with ya, but love it none the less!

Quote
Obviously sources are going to recount things in different lights (for example Plutarch's perception of the Spartan society is very patriotic and you can clearly tell that he is 'in love' with the society. Whereas Aristotle, from an Athenian perspective thinks that they are primitive and outright insane). To be objective the historian has to simply include both perspectives without including his/her view or altering what the records has said.

First of all, love how you have integrated what you have learnt in Ancient (you can 100% use those types of examples in your extension essays, I used Mary Beard all the time!).

Not sure I agree with your point that to be objective a historian has to simply include both perspectives, and I don't agree for a couple of reasons.

1) "both" denotes two sides of an argument, when in most cases there are wayyyyy more, way too many that a historian could actually include within their response. Plus in many cases certain "sides" of an argument have been lost. The saying "History is written by the winners" exists for a reason. Along with this for a very very long time the only perspectives we really ever saw/was written about/survived was those of "Great (most often white) Men." Ethnic minorities, women, lower classes - their voice was hardly ever heard of discussed.

 2) Do historians ever just list perspectives? They may quote a source without altering its contents, but if that is all they do then that is more so, in my opinion, not history. As EH Carr states "interpretation is the lifeblood of history," so if they are to write history they are going to have to interject their interpretation some how, principally when they start to denote significance to various aspects of the source and their arguments.

3) Linguistics. Okay so just gonna preface that this shit is confusing, and I am by no means an expert, but the concept of linguistics in regards to historiography defs throws a massive wrench into this idea of historical objectivity. Basically not only is it impossible to write objectively (according to this argument) but it also impossible to read and absorb information objectively as well, due to the fact that not only is language ever evolving on a macro sense, but also on a micro sense everyone has a different perception of language. For example some may view the word "bitch" as highly offensive and derogatory, whereas others may view the word as empowing (i.e. "boss ass bitch"). Some view it as a term of endearment, while others view it as purely the term used to describe a female dog. So, if those four people read that word - yes they are reading the same five letters, but the significance of those letters are going to be widely different. Thus if language itself is subjective, then how can we obtain objectivity through language ya feel? (I completely understand if you don't feel - as I said this shit is confusing and I have probably not explained this very well!). If you want to read up on this defs recommend taking a look at Derrida and Foucault, and the idea of the shifting signifier!

Quote
The problem is, how can we determine the 'truth'? Who's side presents the true account of events?
Can we trust Plutarch more than Aristotle?
This is where my view changes... I believe unless we travel faster than the speed of light  and go back in time :D :D we will never know the answer. Think about it... We will never know what truly happened, the only way to determine the historical truth is to experience the event yourself.
I'd question whether even experiencing the event yourself would reveal an objective historical truth. Historical events are rarely ever isolated, and rarely ever involve one individual, and the truth that one individual experiences may be entirely different to the truth another individual experiences. For example, both Stalin and Roosevelt were both actively involved during the Cold War, but I'd hardly suggest that both of their interpretations of the event would be objective.

Quote
Now obviously there are historical events where millions of people have experienced these events (eg: the holocaust). So in that sense I do believe that basic historical events can be 100% confirmed. For example, Rome was a major empire during antiquity conquering hundreds of nations, A man called Adolf Hitler ruled Germany after the first world war and was condemned with horrific human right abuses etc.
For the most part I agree with this. I referred to these as lower order facts - the who what when where. For the most part (in some cases, particularly within antiquity this is not the case) these are not arguable (though holocaust deniers have attempted to much controversy!). However, I don't necessarily agree that just because lots of people experienced something means it is fact (unless you just mean the lower order fact that the event happened). Though human beings have the capability of individual thought, hive minds are an increasing problem, especially with the prevalence of propaganda and media manipulation/deception.

Quote
So i guess my view is a combination of the Rankean source gathering methodology, relativism, empiricism and a little bit of post-modernism (in the sense that the past cannot be 100% understood)   :)
Very interesting and thank you so much for sharing! Feel free to share some more anytime  ;)
« Last Edit: May 02, 2017, 09:09:51 pm by sudodds »
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Maraos

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YES YES YES! You are officially my favourite human for posting on this thread :) Hopefully more will soon!

Ooooo very strong judgement - love it! Not sure I agree with ya, but love it none the less!

First of all, love how you have integrated what you have learnt in Ancient (you can 100% use those types of examples in your extension essays, I used Mary Beard all the time!).

Not sure I agree with your point that to be objective a historian has to simply include both perspectives, and I don't agree for a couple of reasons.

1) "both" denotes two sides of an argument, when in most cases there are wayyyyy more, way too many that a historian could actually include within their response. Plus in many cases certain "sides" of an argument have been lost. The saying "History is written by the winners" exists for a reason. Along with this for a very very long time the only perspectives we really ever saw/was written about/survived was those of "Great (most often white) Men." Ethnic minorities, women, lower classes - their voice was hardly ever heard of discussed.

 2) Do historians ever just list perspectives? They may quote a source without altering its contents, but if that is all they do then that is more so, in my opinion, not history. As EH Carr states "interpretation is the lifeblood of history," so if they are to write history they are going to have to interject their interpretation some how, principally when they start to denote significance to various aspects of the source and their arguments.

3) Linguistics. Okay so just gonna preface that this shit is confusing, and I am by no means an expert, but the concept of linguistics in regards to historiography defs throws a massive wrench into this idea of historical objectivity. Basically not only is it impossible to write objectively (according to this argument) but it also impossible to read and absorb information objectively as well, due to the fact that not only is language ever evolving on a macro sense, but also on a micro sense everyone has a different perception of language. For example some may view the word "bitch" as highly offensive and derogatory, whereas others may view the word as empowing (i.e. "boss ass bitch"). Some view it as a term of endearment, while others view it as purely the term used to describe a female dog. So, if those four people read that word - yes they are reading the same five letters, but the significance of those letters are going to be widely different. Thus if language itself is subjective, then how can we obtain objectivity through language ya feel? (I completely understand if you don't feel - as I said this shit is confusing and I have probably not explained this very well!). If you want to read up on this defs recommend taking a look at Derrida and Foucault, and the idea of the shifting signifier!
I'd question whether even experiencing the event yourself would reveal an objective historical truth. Historical events are rarely ever isolated, and rarely ever involve one individual, and the truth that one individual experiences may be entirely different to the truth another individual experiences. For example, both Stalin and Roosevelt were both actively involved during the Cold War, but I'd hardly suggest that both of their interpretations of the event would be objective.
For the most part I agree with this. I referred to these as lower order facts - the who what when where. For the most part (in some cases, particularly within antiquity this is not the case) these are not arguable (though holocaust deniers have attempted to much controversy!). However, I don't necessarily agree that just because lots of people experienced something means it is fact (unless you just mean the lower order fact that the event happened). Though human beings have the capability of individual thought, hive minds are an increasing problem, especially with the prevalence of propaganda and media manipulation/deception.
Very interesting and thank you so much for sharing! Feel free to share some more anytime  ;)

Let the discussion begin! haha ;D

I almost forgot about those post-modernist historians and linguistics, my teacher (attempted) to explain this to us, and yeah I agree haha its really quite complicated. But yeah I have to agree with you, even if someone has experienced an event, it doesn't mean that their account of the event is necessarily the truth. I guess that is the problem with history. The human experience (or lets go even deeper) human consciousness is not even perfect. What we perceive may not even be the truth (now im sounding loopy)... The human experience is different for everyone, and consequently the way we record our experiences is different. Could i even say this in an exam or will the markers start getting concerned hahaah :D
« Last Edit: May 02, 2017, 09:29:12 pm by Maraos »
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sudodds

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Let the discussion begin! haha ;D

I almost forgot about those post-modernist historians and linguistics, my teacher (attempted) to explain this to us, and yeah I agree haha its really quite complicated. But yeah I have to agree with you, even if someone has experienced an event, it doesn't mean that their account of their event is necessarily the truth. I guess that the problem with history, human experience (or lets go even deeper) human consciousness is not even perfect. What we perceive may not even be the truth (now im sounding loopy)... The human experience is different for everyone, and consequently the way we record our experiences is different. Could i even say this in an exam or will the markers start getting concerned hahaah :D
Let us hope!!
They are super confusing! Dialectics is even worse (I don't think my brain ever recovered from trying to read and understand Hegel!) And yes you could 100% say something like that in an exam! History Extension markers are a special breed  ;)

But yeah, I think overall truth isn't at the very least in a holistic, objective sense obtainable - however does that matter? Do you think history needs to be true to be history? If so, what do you define as truth? If not, what do you say is the difference between history and historical fiction? Love to hear your (and everyone elses!) opinion  ;) ;D
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sudodds

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Hey!

So I had a very interesting historiographically themed discussion today with a friend, and I'm super interested to hear other peoples thoughts - what are your opinions on historical fiction? Do you love it or hate it? Do you think that historical fiction is a form of history? Do you think that historical fiction can reveal anything about the past, or does it simply cloud the truth?

My opinion - can't stand it. Maybe its because I'm such a history buff that I really don't see the need to add fiction into the mix to make it interesting - history is fkn interesting already! The story of the Jonestown Massacre for example - you just can't make that kinda stuff up, and is (imo) way more interesting than a lot of fiction that I have read/watched. I always end up feeling really frustrated reading or watching historical fiction, I just can't ignore the parts that aren't true (though what is true lolollollollol #postmodernismmemes) - I could hardly get through the 'Bitter Harvest' trailer - Stalin with a British accent my word.

Would love to hear your thoughts! Do you have any historical fiction recommendations that you think might get me out of this rut?

Susie
« Last Edit: May 04, 2017, 09:41:12 pm by sudodds »
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Hey I don't know if I'm completely wrong her but this is my take on each of the questions

Can history be objective:
I dont think so. When you have something so large and complex as “history” (aka the entire past) there is never one single objective value that you can pin on it. Also historiography (what History Extension is) is completely different to “history” because its the interaction of the past with PEOPLE. People have so many different values and ideologies which influence the way they see and interact with the world, and historians are no different. Obviously there are some single “historical objective facts”, like that WW2 happened, Hitler was a bad guy, the Australian government was a bitch to Indigenous people; however there are so many different variables and inconsistencies within each topic that you cannot write a generalise statement and call it a historical fact. Also, what might be an objective truth for someone, might be a completely different truth for someone else. The multitude of perspectives, and the way in which these perspectives interweave is a really important part of historiography, as we can never know every single thing about a historical event, person or idea (and the effects they/it has/had). Knowing many different stories is how historians can attempt to obtain what happened.
However, Ii is important that objectivity is sought, as otherwise historical works could just completely make their own reference lists and write about utter nonsense without any knowledge or analysis at all (like Bill O’Reilly, hey Susie). But ultimately the differing motives and ideologies of different historians will alter (either consciously or unconsciously) the history they produce.
Even with historically accurate “primary sources”; the milieu of the creator of a text has deep roots within their works, as stated by historian Howard Zinn “… there is no such thing as a pure fact, innocent of interpretation. Behind every fact presented to the world - by a teacher, a writer, anyone - is a judgement.” The respective socio-political contexts of authors, and the purpose they had throughout their work influences the way in which their conclusion was reached. So therefore, whilst it is important that historians strive for objectivity in their research methods and subsequent writings, there is no possible way in which they can completely be objective and escape their inherent interpretations.

Opinions on historical fiction?
Personally I don't hate historical fiction but I’m not a huge fan of it. I think that its important to get at least some historical ideas out into the general public, however, I do understand that the lack of research and authenticity in the pursuit of “art” can actually have more harm than good. 
Historical fiction is mainly written by “popular” historians, whom have an ulterior motive throughout their historical works to make money. (You cant really expect anything else however, because within our capitalistic world this is an essential aspect of being human being). Popular historians works are so “popular”, because traditional academic history-writing had a specialisation and technical discourse which was less accessible to the general reader. Through losing this technicality, the quality of the history produced is going to be a lot less, and so many people may have a particular idea of how something in history happened and it be completely false (as seen with lots of Indigenous Australian history). However, the question must be asked whether telling the public some aspect of history (badly) is better than telling the public no history at all. I think that it is important that historical fiction continue as it will influence other people from other ranges of life (not just academics) to become interested in history and to give up their differing perspectives. If we didn't give history a voice, then how would these other perspectives be known at all? History is after all (in my opinion), and interweaving of multiple perspectives to form a single event.


elysepopplewell

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Hey!

So I had a very interesting historiographically themed discussion today with a friend, and I'm super interested to hear other peoples thoughts - what are your opinions on historical fiction? Do you love it or hate it? Do you think that historical fiction is a form of history? Do you think that historical fiction can reveal anything about the past, or does it simply cloud the truth?

My opinion - can't stand it. Maybe its because I'm such a history buff that I really don't see the need to add fiction into the mix to make it interesting - history is fkn interesting already! The story of the Jonestown Massacre for example - you just can't make that kinda stuff up, and is (imo) way more interesting than a lot of fiction that I have read/watched. I always end up feeling really frustrated reading or watching historical fiction, I just can't ignore the parts that aren't true (though what is true lolollollollol #postmodernismmemes) - I could hardly get through the 'Bitter Harvest' trailer - Stalin with a British accent my word.

Would love to hear your thoughts! Do you have any historical fiction recommendations that you think might get me out of this rut?

Susie


What do you think of Horrible Histories? I never got into them when I was younger, but the girl who came first in Ancient History and Extension HIstory in my High School was INCREDIBLY into them in Primary School. She also read a lot of historical fiction, I think for that end it does a lot to spark interest and engage people in history, hopefully to then pursue it in a more academic way if the interest persists.

I read a few of the books from the My Story series and I was always left frustrated at the end - not knowing what was fiction and what was real. I remember the Titanic one specifically, it had a romance threaded through it (not Jack and Rose), which was light hearted and fun to read at like age 13, but I was really annoyed that I couldn't pull the fiction from the fact. So I guess your problem is that the fiction bits make you cringe, but for me, the problem is that I hate not knowing what actually happened and what didn't!
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sudodds

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Hey I don't know if I'm completely wrong her but this is my take on each of the questions
This is extension history - we're all completely wrong  ;)

Quote
Can history be objective:
I dont think so. When you have something so large and complex as “history” (aka the entire past) there is never one single objective value that you can pin on it. Also historiography (what History Extension is) is completely different to “history” because its the interaction of the past with PEOPLE.
I love the distinction you have made between history and historiography! Those two are often unfortunately conflated :( Tbh history extension should really be renamed to "Historiography 101" or something along those lines!

Quote
People have so many different values and ideologies which influence the way they see and interact with the world, and historians are no different. Obviously there are some single “historical objective facts”, like that WW2 happened, Hitler was a bad guy, the Australian government was a bitch to Indigenous people; however there are so many different variables and inconsistencies within each topic that you cannot write a generalise statement and call it a historical fact.
It's weird because though I totally agree with all the "historical objective facts" you have stated, however even so I don't think they can be 100% considered objective! I'd never attempt to argue that Hitler wasn't pure evil, or that the Australian government didn't do some horrific things to Indigenous Australians. In my opinion those things are as plain as the light of day - however a small minority of people disagree! Just take a look at some of the stuff that David Irving or Keith Windschuttle have written on the topics. I think what makes these arguably undeniable truths deniable is that they deal with issues of morality - which in and of itself is a subjective concept. A statement like "Hitler was evil" relies upon an understanding of what "evil" means, and though many of us share some common understanding upon this issue - eg. systematic torture and genocide = hella evil - there can still be some considerable differences between them. For example, a member of the Westboro Baptist Church may perceive homosexuality as "evil", whereas myself (a very left-leaning agnostic) definitely does not so. Thus the term evil - and others that denote a notion of morality eg. good, bad, heroic, etc. - are subjective, no matter wether or not a natural consensus has occured (eg. in regards to Hitler and the treatment of Indigenous Australians). In this way we are really delving into the concept of linguistics again and the idea that language means different things to different people. We could even take this a step further, and look at how limiting language is! For example, the term "bad" doesn't quantify how bad something is. I can say that Pol Pot was bad - but what does bad mean? Do I mean he was bad because he made some regretful/stupid/thoughtless choices, or do I mean bad because he was a malicious, evil person? Even in my explanations I am being subjective f**k! The term "bad" doesn't differentiate between the "bad-ness" level of murder, and the "bad-ness" of a headache - language is flawed.

However, just because something is subjective, does that necessarily mean that it is not true? In my opinion no, and even though these types of things are subjective, I do believe there are more correct interpretations than others. Someone who says "Hitler was evil" is going to have a lot more evidence to back up their claims than someone that says the opposite - thus I would say this interpretation, though subjective, is still widely more correct.

Quote
Also, what might be an objective truth for someone, might be a completely different truth for someone else. The multitude of perspectives, and the way in which these perspectives interweave is a really important part of historiography, as we can never know every single thing about a historical event, person or idea (and the effects they/it has/had). Knowing many different stories is how historians can attempt to obtain what happened.
Reminds me a lot of the David Hackett Fischer quote "a historian can only hope to know something about something" (might not be exact). An excellent point - the brevity of historical archives is a key issue that limits our ability to be objective. Though there are many ways in which historical archives are limited (eg. the lack of sources pertaining to various "non-dominant" groups in society like women, ethnic minorities, lgbtq, working classes etc.), even so a historian would have to spend their whole life (and a good chunk of their after life) reading and reading and reading sources is they wanted to see every perspective - and even then they wouldn't know everything because how they to know if one source is more credible than another, or if a key perspective was never actually written down?

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However, Ii is important that objectivity is sought, as otherwise historical works could just completely make their own reference lists and write about utter nonsense without any knowledge or analysis at all (like Bill O’Reilly, hey Susie).
Ayeeeeeee  8)
This is a good point - I think this notion of striving for the truth and objectivity, whether it is an achievable goal or not, is one of the things that sets history apart from historical fiction. However, even some credible historians utilise imagination within their works. For example, socio-logical imagination is imperative to the study of social history! The amount of gaps in our knowledge, due to a lack of sources, means that in order to "give a voice to the voiceless" social historians/bottom-up historians need to essentially guess, based on the limited knowledge they have, what happened. In this way you could say that they are "making stuff up". Just something to think about - what do you guys think? Do you think imagination has a place in history?

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But ultimately the differing motives and ideologies of different historians will alter (either consciously or unconsciously) the history they produce. Even with historically accurate “primary sources”; the milieu of the creator of a text has deep roots within their works, as stated by historian Howard Zinn “… there is no such thing as a pure fact, innocent of interpretation. Behind every fact presented to the world - by a teacher, a writer, anyone - is a judgement.
Ooooo are "primary sources" always (or ever!) historically accurate? In the same way that a historian is a deeply ideological and subjective being, so to are historical actors - the creators of these primary sources. Also love the quote! Zinn is a babe.

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The respective socio-political contexts of authors, and the purpose they had throughout their work influences the way in which their conclusion was reached. So therefore, whilst it is important that historians strive for objectivity in their research methods and subsequent writings, there is no possible way in which they can completely be objective and escape their inherent interpretations.
Often they'll even have a conclusion in there head as well before they even start researching! And this is going to drastically shape their analysis, as they purposely look for sources that specifically back up this pre-determined conclusion. Great points, thanks for sharing! Now onto your next argument!!

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Opinions on historical fiction?
Personally I don't hate historical fiction but I’m not a huge fan of it. I think that its important to get at least some historical ideas out into the general public, however, I do understand that the lack of research and authenticity in the pursuit of “art” can actually have more harm than good.
Great point! Historical fiction defs probably makes history more digestible and accessible for someone that isn't crazy like me and will read a history book for fun! But as you say, this is definitely a double edged sword - more people are engaging with history, but they are engaging with fake history. This reminds me in particular of how disney has dealt with history, and how this has shaped peoples interpretations of historical peoples and events. Yes, Disney has probably had a significant influence in making Pocahontas an extremely well known historical figure. However, though she is now more well known, her actual story is clouded by the disney-fied "made for children" version.

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Historical fiction is mainly written by “popular” historians,
Hmmm is popular history the same as historical fiction though? Eric Hobsbawm was definitely a popular historian - but I wouldn't say that he was writing historical fiction, in the same way that I wouldn't classify Markus Zusak (author of the Book Thief) a historian.

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whom have an ulterior motive throughout their historical works to make money. (You cant really expect anything else however, because within our capitalistic world this is an essential aspect of being human being).
8) PREACH SISTAH 8). Definitely a great point - there are also a heap load of other ulterior motives that I can think of as well - kudos, awards, accolades, to promote an ideology or political agenda, etc, etc.

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Popular historians works are so “popular”, because traditional academic history-writing had a specialisation and technical discourse which was less accessible to the general reader. Through losing this technicality, the quality of the history produced is going to be a lot less, and so many people may have a particular idea of how something in history happened and it be completely false (as seen with lots of Indigenous Australian history). However, the question must be asked whether telling the public some aspect of history (badly) is better than telling the public no history at all.
Yeah definitely agree with you here. I do think that a balance definitely has to be made. Also love the question you posed at the end - I feel like that could be an incredibly interesting Major Work topic!

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I think that it is important that historical fiction continue as it will influence other people from other ranges of life (not just academics) to become interested in history and to give up their differing perspectives. If we didn't give history a voice, then how would these other perspectives be known at all? History is after all (in my opinion), and interweaving of multiple perspectives to form a single event.
Wow? Have you perhaps changed my opinion on historical fiction? Potentially  8) I'm still not 100% down for it. I think the distinction has to be made between popular history and historical fiction - however you've definitely shown me a new perspective on the significance of historical fiction that I will have to take on board! I also love your summation of history at the end - nice and neat :)


Thank you so much for sharing Alex!! Come back any time  ;)

Susie
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sudodds

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What do you think of Horrible Histories? I never got into them when I was younger, but the girl who came first in Ancient History and Extension HIstory in my High School was INCREDIBLY into them in Primary School. She also read a lot of historical fiction, I think for that end it does a lot to spark interest and engage people in history, hopefully to then pursue it in a more academic way if the interest persists.

I read a few of the books from the My Story series and I was always left frustrated at the end - not knowing what was fiction and what was real. I remember the Titanic one specifically, it had a romance threaded through it (not Jack and Rose), which was light hearted and fun to read at like age 13, but I was really annoyed that I couldn't pull the fiction from the fact. So I guess your problem is that the fiction bits make you cringe, but for me, the problem is that I hate not knowing what actually happened and what didn't!

Now Horrible Histories I can get down with  8) I think the thing I like about them though is, though yes there are clearly some fictional and theatrical elements, as their aim is to educate their viewership they actually do take care to make sure that at the very core there is a level of historical truth - just presented in a super hilarious way. I do agree with what you (and Alex) are saying though about it sparking an interest - I forget that not everyone is born a history nerd haha  :P

That is definitely one of my biggest qualms with historical fiction, and why I actively avoid it haha. There is some incredibly well researched and well written historical fiction out there, but just knowing that there is fiction and its not explictly stated that it is fiction makes me unnerved. I want to be clear on the facts (if they even exist).This is the exact same reason why I hate watching horror films that are "based on true events." Was the true event that a demon lived in their attack and murdered the whole family? Or was the true event that they moved to a new house and sometimes the stairs creaked a bit? This is important information that I need to know if I'm going to sleep at night.

On the topic of Titanic though, I went to the Titanic exhibition recently and it was very interesting! The exhibition itself wasn't particularly great tbh, but it appears that as a piece of historical fiction the film Titanic is not actually that bad in terms of its accuracy. Though of course the narrative is just that, a narrative, certain characters (even ones that were only shown for a split second) were actually real people, or at the very least some of the things that the fictional characters did (for example when Rose's fiancé forces his way onto one of the life boats) did actually happen!
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elysepopplewell

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Re: History Extension Debating Thread (ie. how to develop your "voice")
« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2017, 02:28:25 am »
+1
That is definitely one of my biggest qualms with historical fiction, and why I actively avoid it haha. There is some incredibly well researched and well written historical fiction out there, but just knowing that there is fiction and its not explictly stated that it is fiction makes me unnerved. I want to be clear on the facts (if they even exist).This is the exact same reason why I hate watching horror films that are "based on true events." Was the true event that a demon lived in their attack and murdered the whole family? Or was the true event that they moved to a new house and sometimes the stairs creaked a bit? This is important information that I need to know if I'm going to sleep at night.

On the topic of Titanic though, I went to the Titanic exhibition recently and it was very interesting! The exhibition itself wasn't particularly great tbh, but it appears that as a piece of historical fiction the film Titanic is not actually that bad in terms of its accuracy. Though of course the narrative is just that, a narrative, certain characters (even ones that were only shown for a split second) were actually real people, or at the very least some of the things that the fictional characters did (for example when Rose's fiancé forces his way onto one of the life boats) did actually happen!

The Titanic movie made me extremely interested in the Titanic when I was in early High School, I read a lot of historic fiction about it, and then began really researching it (engineering elements and all!). So the movie was a great gateway for me.

As for horror movies: I literally wonder the same thing. Based on a true story??? What does that even mean???
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sudodds

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Re: History Extension Debating Thread (ie. how to develop your "voice")
« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2017, 12:05:21 pm »
+3
Just watched a really interesting video by Vox on the re-colouring of old black and white photos, which brought up a lot of great points and historiographical issues that I think would be great for history extension students to consider and maybe include within their essays!

I think you could really use this as an example when discussing the nature of truth and history, because I found this issue to be quite paradoxical! On the one hand, the 'black and white'-ness of the photos aren't truth - the world did actually have colour prior to the 1960s believe it or not! By adding colour, you could say that these photos are becoming more truthful and realistic, especially considering the amount of time and research many colourists spend assuring the accuracy. HOWEVER, on the other hand, no matter how much time and effort is spent, you can still never 100% be accurate. The colours they select may be close, but they will never be objectively, historically accurate - which may distort our perception of the image and the historical event that is taking place. For example, in the video they bring up a really interesting point that various logos have changed throughout history (they use the example of 7-up!). If you don't realise this (and it would be a really easy thing to not realise) you could really screw up the accuracy of an image.

Another important thing to note is what the video discusses in terms of providing a greater level of engagement with the past. When we look at colorized images, they don't look so "old" anymore - it is way easier to empathise with and see the similarities between ourselves and an individual from 1911 when we can see the colour of the clothes they are wearing, or the "aliveness" so to speak of their skin/eyes etc. It makes them appear not so distant :) This definitely would have some historiographical implications!

Do you think this re-engagement with the past is worth the potential historical inaccuracies that'll arise through colorisation? Or do you think that colorisation is actually making these photos more accurate? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Susie

(Here's the accompanying article if you'd like to take a read as well!)
« Last Edit: May 31, 2017, 12:09:55 pm by sudodds »
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Re: History Extension Debating Thread (ie. how to develop your "voice")
« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2017, 12:09:46 am »
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The historiographical implications of re-colouring photos are really interesting... and of course... you can't NOT talk about postmodernism ;) For my major work I looked into the philosophical theories of R.G. Collingwood, who argued that history itself is inevitably a recreation of the past within the historian's mind since we can't ever recover history in its entirety. If this is the case, and the full/truthful 'image' of the past can't ever be recaptured anyway, does it really matter if the presentation of photos as historical sources involves some adjustments that compromise its complete accuracy? Since history itself is more the essence of the past rather than a perfect, fully-comprehendible, all-encompassing recreation of it, inaccuracies, especially inconsequential ones like misrepresentations of e.g. the colour of one of JFK's ties, should be permitted and even anticipated.

And even so, I think a more pressing issue isn't how the picture itself is presented but what's missing from it. Even if you manage to have a completely accurate representation of colour in a picture, that doesn't necessarily guarantee it's reliability/objectivity, because the photographer is still being selective about what they capture - about what history they want to portray. As 'real' or irreproachable physical photographs may seem as historical evidence, they can still be completely biased. An example of this would be photographing the 11/10 quality of the German trenches in WWI and perpetrating this as propaganda to make it seem like every single German soldier was subject to the same suitable conditions, when they reeeeally weren't. The issue of colour, to me at least, is a little trivial since I can't think of any circumstances where the inaccurate colourisation of a photo would completely compromise historicity (maybe you can suggest one cause I really can't come up with anything), whereas inaccuracies in paintings or drawings are much easier to make and could be much more significant. If it really can enhance someone's sense of engagement with the past, I can't see much being wrong with colouring the sky a light blue when it was actually a little more grey. Hope this makes sense haha :)
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sudodds

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Re: History Extension Debating Thread (ie. how to develop your "voice")
« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2017, 01:04:38 am »
+1
The historiographical implications of re-colouring photos are really interesting... and of course... you can't NOT talk about postmodernism ;)
Was hoping someone would bring this up ;)

For my major work I looked into the philosophical theories of R.G. Collingwood, who argued that history itself is inevitably a recreation of the past within the historian's mind since we can't ever recover history in its entirety. If this is the case, and the full/truthful 'image' of the past can't ever be recaptured anyway, does it really matter if the presentation of photos as historical sources involves some adjustments that compromise its complete accuracy? Since history itself is more the essence of the past rather than a perfect, fully-comprehendible, all-encompassing recreation of it, inaccuracies, especially inconsequential ones like misrepresentations of e.g. the colour of one of JFK's ties, should be permitted and even anticipated.
Interesting and I defs agree with your assessment! I think if a historian really cares about being 100% historically accurate and objective, then they will never actually write history because that is just an impossible task! Even Von Ranke - the Empiricist king - agreed with this, his famous quote suggesting that he would write history "as it actually was" being more than likely a mistranslation of "as it essentially was" - which are of course very different assertions. As Hackett Fisher says, a historian can only know "something about something" - not only because, yes, obviously bias is a thing that dilutes literally everything including both the historian and the sources, but also because some things are just literally not accessible! It is impossible to know, for example, the exact shade of blue the sky was on the 1st of March 1995 - even if a colour photograph was taken, because not even digital cameras, no matter how sophisticated, can create an image in the same resolution as real life. Going further, we all perceive visuals and colour differently due to variations in our sight abilities which further creates complications in forming an objective image (definitely falling down the postmodernist rabbit hole here so I'm gonna attempt to climb out now...).

HOWEVER - that being said should they be permitted? Overall I agree with that point, but isn't that a tad defeatist (you're a postmodernist though so I'm not surprised haha ;) )? Anticipated yes, we know that full objectivity is impossible, so we have to anticipate a few inaccuracies, however permitted suggests that we allow known inaccuracies to slip by. I feel like you could very easily fall into a spiral with this idea (a spiral that I looked at in my major work haha) - if you allow some to slip by based upon the blanket statement that "all interpretations are subjective", then what is stopping other, larger, inaccuracies from being acceptable? That was always my biggest gripe with postmodernism, and why I never fully accepted it. I think it (often, not always) fails to acknowledge that there are more valid interpretations than others, by blankety suggesting that they are all wrong. They are all wrong, but are they all equally wrong? In my opinion no. A historian who employs a more rigorous methodology such as Bernard Porter is always, in my opinion, going to be writing more accurate history than say Bill O'Reilly, who didn't even go and look at one of his most critical sources for his book 'Killing Reagan' until months after it was published.

By the way I know this has gone beyond your argument, and that you only suggested minor changes, not massive inconsistencies hah - just thought that this is still an interesting discussion! How far can postmodernism actually be taken, before it just ends up debating its own futility?

And even so, I think a more pressing issue isn't how the picture itself is presented but what's missing from it. Even if you manage to have a completely accurate representation of colour in a picture, that doesn't necessarily guarantee it's reliability/objectivity, because the photographer is still being selective about what they capture - about what history they want to portray. As 'real' or irreproachable physical photographs may seem as historical evidence, they can still be completely biased. An example of this would be photographing the 11/10 quality of the German trenches in WWI and perpetrating this as propaganda to make it seem like every single German soldier was subject to the same suitable conditions, when they reeeeally weren't.
Fantastic point! Seems a bit silly to be getting so caught up in the colour of the photograph, when there is probably so much more within it that is completely contrived haha. Question: Do you think that video is more reliable than photography? Obviously a video can still be subjective through script (if there is one), camera angles and editing (as a film student I know that all too well haha ;) ), however do you think that running footage is going to present a more accurate depiction of the past as it isn't stagnant like a photograph, or do you think that there are any other historiographical issues that make video worse?

The issue of colour, to me at least, is a little trivial since I can't think of any circumstances where the inaccurate colourisation of a photo would completely compromise historicity (maybe you can suggest one cause I really can't come up with anything), whereas inaccuracies in paintings or drawings are much easier to make and could be much more significant.
Hmmm not sure if I agree with you there! Colour is often very symbolic, thus I think mixing it up could definitely cause some pretty drastic issues. Take the 'Nazi Triangles' for example. During the Holocaust, the Nazi's used a coloured triangle system to categorise their prisoners according to which social or cultural group they belonged to. Here is a diagram below which goes into more specifics.



So lets say that someone wanted to recolour this photograph:


If they got the colours of the triangles wrong, they could drastically alter the image, misrepresenting the individuals in the photo.

I'm also not sure whether inaccuracies in a painting or drawing are really "more significant!" Reason being I think everyone knows that, no matter how good of a painter or drawer you are, it is never going to be 100% realistic. However, I do think that a lot of people expect accuracy from a photograph - that is why when we realise say a celebrity has photoshopped one of their photographs it is treated as deception, whereas if they share a painted portrait of themselves it'll be treated as art (even if it is a bit more flattering).

If it really can enhance someone's sense of engagement with the past, I can't see much being wrong with colouring the sky a light blue when it was actually a little more grey. Hope this makes sense haha :)
Defs makes sense, and overall I agree with your interpretation, thanks so much for sharing! Was a super interesting read :D Hope to see you back here some time  ;D

Susie
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sudodds

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Re: History Extension Debating Thread (ie. how to develop your "voice")
« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2017, 09:45:24 pm »
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This week on 'Susie historiographically dissects a harmless video designed purely for entertainment purposes'....

I was scrolling through facebook today and I found this really funny, short video, on how the word "bitch" is actually one of the most multipurpose and "communicative" words in the english language! And like always, I decided to ruin the fun of the video by instead attempting to analyse it through the lens of Derrida/Foucault style linguistics  ;) ;) ;)

Basically, I think a really interesting and important historiographical issue (that you can defs mention in your essays) is ever-changing, ever-subjective role of language - particularly written language. As the video suggests, a single word may have infinite meanings, a lot of which can be understood through facial expressions and vocal inflections. However, what happens when that similarly subjective word if written down on paper? We lose that ability to understand intent, which presents significant problems to history! What happens if, through language, we misinterpret the intent of the source? Or a historians work? In the on-going game of historical chinese whispers, the subjective role of language could literally change history.

For example - lets say someone was attempting to understand the relationship between two people from the past, lets call them Anna and Bea. We recover a bunch of facebook conversations between them, but they're disjointed (like most sources are). One message from Anna reads: "omg bitch I literally hate you." From just that one message, someone might interpret that as meaning they are archenemies, when in reality Anna may have been responding to finding out that Bea gets an extra week of holiday - the "bitch" and the "i hate you" more an indication of their friendship, as they are comfortable enough with each other to say that without fear of causing offence.

The above is obviously a very arbitrary example - but you get the point. To what extent does the nature of language itself limit our ability to construct an accurate history? Is history not only plagued by the subjectiveness of the historian in terms of their socio-philosophical context and beliefs, but furthermore the inescapable subjectiveness of its very foundations? Is there any way to get around this? Can you think of any other examples (maybe even actual historical examples) of the way in which language fails us?

Would love to hear your thoughts :)

Susie
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