Theories of History. K.J. Benoy. Schools of Thought. Historians (and non-historians) seek to make sense of the past. They look for patterns. They seek truths. What they find shapes their conclusions.
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Historians (and non-historians) seek to make sense of the past.
They look for patterns.
They seek truths.
What they find shapes their conclusions.
If they are not intellectually honest, their existing ideas may determine what they seek in the past – and therefore reinforce pre-determined beliefs – not unlike a science student “cooking” his experimental results.
Since we all have biases, a good historian must be aware of his own and must avoid a myopic approach and be willing to change positions if the evidence warrants it.
Proponents of such theories believe that history is moved along by changing ideas.
G.W.F. Hegel believed in a dialectic whereby an idea (thesis) us posed and challenged (antithesis). A synthesis is arrived at, which becomes a new thesis, to be challenged again. History is, therefore, the development of consciousness.
Karl Marx insisted that economic shifts moved history along – what matters is ownership of the means of production. (Dialectical Materialism)
Keith Windschuttle recently wrote a book entitled The Killing of History: How a Discipline is Being Murdered by Literary Critics and Social Theorists.
“The study of history is essentially a search for the truth…those who insist that all historic evidence is inherently subjective are wrong…one of the most common experiences of historians is that the evidence they find forces them, often reluctantly, to change the position they originally intended to take.”
Historians have generally mustered more convincing evidence in support of their conclusions than have their critics.