#1
Here's a quote from Carl Sagan. It's from Demon Haunted World.

History generally is written by the victors to justify their actions, to arouse patriotic fervor, and to suppress the legitimate claims of the vanquished. When no overwhelming victory takes place, each side writes self-promotional accounts of what really happened.

English histories castigated the French and vice-versa; U.S. histories until very recently ignored the de facto policies of lebensraum and genocide towards Native Americans; Japanese histories of the events leading to World War 2 minimizes Japanese atrocities, and suggest that their chief purpose was altruistically to free East Asia from European and American colonialism.

These histories have traditionally been written by admired academic historians, often pillars of the establishment. Local dissent is given shirt shrift. Objectivity is sacrificed in the service of higher goals. From this doleful fact, some have gone so far as to conclude that there is no such thing as history, no possibility of reconstructing the actual events; that all we have are biased self-justifications; and that this conclusion stretches from history to all of knowledge, science included.

And yet who would deny that there were actual sequences of historical events, with real causal threads, even if our ability to reconstruct them is limited, even if the signal is awash in an ocean of self-congratulatory noise? The danger of subjectivity and prejudice has been apparent from the beginning of history.


So how much do we really understand? Everyone has heard the saying "History is written by the victors". History learned in school seems to often be biased, and out of context. Our ability to re-count historical events also seem to be pretty limited. Do you think the rise of the internet has changed or will change people's understanding of history, it being a source of information available to many people? For example, have you been able to learn about some atrocities your country has committed in the past that were never taught to you in school?

Thoughts?
Last edited by Masamune at May 25, 2011,
#2
History is written by the winners. That's why history classes depict european colonists so positively.
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#4
Quote by rgrockr
History is written by the winners. That's why history classes depict european colonists so positively.

Wait what?! America was colonized?!!
#5
It goes both ways. You can't trust the victors, because they are going to obviously diminish their moral lapses and justify why they did what they did. But you can't completely trust the victims either, as they may over-exaggerate the suffering.

What I've discovered best to do is take a conservative text (which will put all of anything America has ever done in a positive light) and read it next to a liberal text (which will put all of anything America has ever done in a negative light). Compare research, evidence, and decide for yourself what you are willing to believe.

Never take one side of the facts, because no matter which side you are taking, someone is going to fudge, at least a little bit.
Tonight, we stagger out from the basement...


I'm sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.

...Or fall to our deaths from above
#6
Eh.


Take some university history courses. They tend to use sources from all sides of a subject to give a better understanding of it.


No matter who writes the story there is always going to be some amount of bias, whether it's glaringly obvious or very subtle. It's up to the people studying the subject to read the available sources and form their own opinion based on those.
#7
Quote by daytripper75
Eh.


Take some university history courses. They tend to use sources from all sides of a subject to give a better understanding of it.


No matter who writes the story there is always going to be some amount of bias, whether it's glaringly obvious or very subtle. It's up to the people studying the subject to read the available sources and form their own opinion based on those.

I have, and you're right. History classes in university are a lot more insightful. Very different from the classes I took in high school.
#8
Quote by daytripper75
Eh.


Take some university history courses. They tend to use sources from all sides of a subject to give a better understanding of it.


No matter who writes the story there is always going to be some amount of bias, whether it's glaringly obvious or very subtle. It's up to the people studying the subject to read the available sources and form their own opinion based on those.

You want to talk about bias? Look at anything Zinn has done.
#9
Quote by genghisgandhi
You want to talk about bias? Look at anything Zinn has done.



Like I said, every historian has some amount of bias. Some more than others.


That doesn't mean they shouldn't be taken seriously. You can look at a source and interpret it many different ways.
#10
Quote by genghisgandhi
My history teacher never put them in a positive light.

Exactly.
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#11
Howard Zinn is my favorite historian. Another good one's Greg Grandin at NYU, who writes a lot about the relations between Latin America and the US.
#13
Quote by Masamune
Do you think the rise of the internet has changed or will change people's understanding of history, it being a source of information available to many people? For example, have you been able to learn about some atrocities your country has committed in the past that were never taught to you in school?

The internet is one of the worst places to seek information. One must wade through the flood of bullshit (the kind Huxley predicted). The library is a much better place for educating oneself.

Also, I was taught history in high school by an avowed Socialist. If anything we were constantly inundated with how evil European's were / are. Although, to his credit, he did try to maintain some level of objectivity.
#15
I don't put an immense amount of faith in our perception. Just look at the years and years of failures with Native American history and what the consensus was.
#16
It gets a lot worse the further back you go.

(I'm certain that there was a pre-columbian connection to the Old World prior to the Vikings even.)
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#17
Quote by NotFromANUS
The internet is one of the worst places to seek information. One must wade through the flood of bullshit (the kind Huxley predicted). The library is a much better place for educating oneself.

Yes that's true but the internet, in my case anyway, has made me come across things that I've found interesting and decided to read into more. Things that just don't really get brought up in conversation with my friends or family. So despite the fact that there is a lot of bullshit out there, and there is a ton, if you try to get your information from reliable sources it can make you aware of certain things that you might not have otherwise.
#18
Quote by blackflag49
Greg Grandin



I'm reading Fordlandia right now. I might look into some of his other works after that.