Monday, March 24, 2014


History quotes
“History does not repeat itself. The historians repeat one another.”

-Max Beerbohm
“God alone knows the future, but only an historian can alter the past.”

-Ambrose Bierce
“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”

“All that has been felt, thought, imagined, said, and done by human beings as such and in relation to one another and to their environment since the beginning of mankind’s operations on this planet.”

-Social Science Research Council

Many consider “history” to be one of the humanities

Developments to note
  • Increasing interdisciplinary trend
  • Increasing number of specialized areas, e.g. by: time period; geographic area; ethnic, racial, or social group
  • Developments in theory and method, e.g. postmodernism; feminist theory
  • New technologies, e.g. digitalization and availability of primary sources over the Web, e.g. U of M Archives & Special Collections. The Canadian Wartime Experience
  • see Using Primary Sources on the Web
  •  Primary sources: records made at the time of an event (or somewhat later) by the participants or firsthand observers, e.g.
    • letters
    • diaries
    • court records
    • wills
    • newspaper accounts of those on the scene
      • viewpoints may not be accurate
    • oral histories and interviews
    • data files, e.g. census records
    • ephemeral materials important for social/cultural history, e.g. menus, catalogues, playbills, comic books, etc.
  • Secondary sources: materials by individuals other than event participants or eyewitnesses which analyze or report on historical subjects 
    • Monograph dominates but serial literature growing
  • Tertiary sources: information gained “third hand”, or a summary of a summary. Information found from encyclopaedias
  • Historians tend to refer to older materials more than scholars in most other disciplines (preservation problems with acidic materials)
  • New methodologies esp. use of quantitative sources, e.g. census, tax info
  • Social history (Annales School originating in France, 1929)
    • study of groups such as women, children, minorities, the poor
    • Statistical data used where ever possible, e.g. the Doomsday book
    • If those studied were not considered everyday people or the elite, there was likely little to no paper trails
  • Historians usually regular library users
    • heavy users of ILL
    • microform sets of source material important
    • Web resources beginning to appear
  • Biographies most popular historical genre with general readers
  • Local histories: authors often amateur historians, information may overlap with genealogy
  • Oral history may fill gap as fewer and fewer record experiences in written diaries and letters
  • Historical revision: process of reinterpreting the past, should be based on new evidence or new interpretations of existing evidence not deliberate fabrications of the historical record
    • E.g. The Red River Rebellion is now referred to as the Red River Resistance. Louis Riel is now portrayed as a good man, rather than the traitor he was illustrated as.
  • Poor teaching of history in K-12, especially when focused on names and dates, has caused many to believe history is boring and irrelevant yet:
    • Family history/genealogy extremely popular
    • Historical re-enactments popular
    • History TV channel
    • Numerous popular museums

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