What is History?

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What is History? The definition of history, is a question which has sparked international debate for centuries between the writers, readers, and the makers of history. In the words of acclaimed historian Edward Gibbon, "History is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind." A more romantic view on the subject was taken by Cicero. He said, "History is the witness that testifies the passing of time. It illuminates reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance of daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity" History, described in the simplest of terms, can be seen as a record of events that have occurred in the past that the historian has taken the trouble to document. It is the accuracy of this documentation, that has been called into question. The task of the historian is not an enviable one. There must be an element of the philosopher in him, so that he can apply reason to and interpret the subject so that it forms a logical sequence and format for the reader. The reader for example, already knows that President Kennedy was assassinated. The historian’s task is do study the events leading up to the assassination, decide who were the key personnel working within those events, and to establish a conclusion as to the reasons why it may have occurred. With the benefit of the knowledge of how the country changed after the assassination, he may even wish to discuss the consequences that arose from it. In composing his work, the historian will consult a variety of sources. Primary source material, such as original documents, letters or artefacts from the period is deemed to be of greater accuracy. This type of source may be in limited supply and he may need t... ... middle of paper ... ...igent to form his own view and interpretation independent of the writer. Today, in the western society, we are privileged with a state wherein free speech and freedom of information is well practiced. Historians are unlikely to face persecution or imprisonment if they do not favour the ideas of the establishment. Historians can be as biased or critical at will as long as their opinions are well founded so as to satisfy the discerning critic. On a humorous note one could conclude with the words of Henry Ford: "History is more or less bunk!" but it is possibly more accurate to deduce that in essence, history is an argument without end. Bibliography: Bibliography: 1. In Defence of History against the Post Modernist Attack - Richard Evans 2. The History Guide - World wide web www.pagesz.net/~stevek/history.html

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