Following our class discussion, there has been one question that perplexes me more than others: What is History? Although this is not a question on the “Guideposts to historical Thinking” handout, I believe it is an essential prerequisite to ponder, before answering any of the other questions.
As a species, we have collectively served the purpose of passing down information to the next generation. While includes the continuity atomic compositions, and herdity, history refers to the collection of information we record on the events that have transpired to this date. We aim for recorded history to be as close to this definition as possible, but is that only a pipe-dream? One could argue that our actual recorded history is but what we make it, and is a story that exists independent of the “idea of history”. Historical Information is communicated soley through the verbal and textual works of our ancestors, who are inevitably subject to bias. Because humans determine significance upon the emotions that an event invokes by default, history gets more distorted and altered with each passing of the torch. When conflict arises, “the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books” (Dan Brown, 2003). An example of this outcome can be observed during the age of exploration. Although the arrival of Christopher Columbus resulted in mass genocide of the Arawak, and Haitian populations, he became a celebrated hero amongst the early Americans. Only until recently, the general US population has neither studied nor payed attention to the inhuman nature of Columbus’s expeditions. In face of uncertain information, it is the civil duty of effective historians to continuously critique and refine what we define as “history”. After all, “What is history, but a fable agreed upon?”.