How to learn about History


In  history we have discovered that there are different variations and interpretations of the past. We have learned the importance of thinking critically and effectively in order to take in what is accurate and how to disregard the rest. There are several people who look at history as something that’s exactly how its seen in text. This is a folly of all kinds of sorts starting with the known knowledge that text books and people are riddled with mistakes. To know exactly what happened in history we must study the interpretations of the works of the historians not the past itself. Several historians saw the importance of this type of analytical thinking and through it were all able to contribute to the study of western history in their own way.

Thucydides, an ancient Greek historian of the fifth century and the earliest critical historian, wrote a justly famous account of the Peloponnesian Wars and was vastly known for his principled use of evidence and analysis. Through the study of the Peloponnesian war he was able to observe that the   interaction of states followed a a very structured pattern. It has been said that he plays  a big part in power theories and through his ideas we can contribute to the social hierarchy and to individual human behavior. Thucydides was what people first began to call a true historical spirit. According to  the historiography packet on page 4,  Niccolo Machiavelli, who centered his study history around the religion he partook in, believed that the function of history was not to reveal God’s plans in the lives of men—as often seen in the Middle Ages, but simply to narrate the experiences of particular states and individuals without reference to a divine plan.

Leopold Von Ranke, a German historian, (1795-1886) was the founding father of academic history. He was the first to establish discipline in critical thinking and contributed that all sound history must be based on primary sources, historical mindedness and rigorous “scientific method.” Before Ranke we didn’t have systematic uses that helped us keep history critical and organized. He helped the world transition into a set of skills towards the use of critical thinking that we have been able to apply to the study of history today. He stressed on one of the most important techniques in studying history which was basing any historical narrative firmly on the reading of primary sources. He believed that a reader should not take information lightly and should always analyze and annotate the text before allowing the information into a realm of possibility.

Karl Marx stressed the importance of social and economic forces in human affairs. Marx, a German economist and revolutionary philosopher is “widely recognized as one of the most influential thinkers of the last one hundred years.” Much of the study of western history and the appreciation for it can be seen as a contribution from Marx’s philosophies. Some of these philosophies being, the belief that as seen on page 6 of the historiography packet, that societies would develop through a number of steps ending in the formation of a “dictatorship of the proletariat” and, inevitably become a classless society. Since these theories have never been able to be denied or accepted Marx has become a bit controversial. Marx was able to open the eyes of people into formulating the economic interpretation of history. “Marx argued that, at any given point in time, the mode of economic production determined, to a great extent, the character of the entire society-its ideas, values, political structure, and social relations.” He believed that economic qualities were the reasons for every social and political issues with society. There are few historians who would argue with his practices and the importance of economic value regarding the study and analysis of history.

Charles A. Beard followed up on this theory of important economic value in the study of history. Although concurred that he is no Marx, Beard was able to kind of transition what Marx believed and develop it more thoroughly. In “An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States” published in 1914, Beard examined the economic interests of the framers of the constitution and concluded that it was designed to protect those economic values then in order to protect the political rights of the citizens. This opinion is extremely controversial but can be given gain to the study of western history by thinking critically.

T.B. Macaulay, Sigmund Freud, and Erik Erikson all had one very important thing in common. Apart from all  having an intense interest in social history and the reasoning of why people did the things that they did, they were all thoroughly able to take that human analysis and apply it to the study of social history. T.B. Macaulay was said to be the history of history. He’s most famous for the third chapter in his “History of England” which he wrote in the mid 19th century. Sigmund Freud was most commonly known for his psychoanalysis and sometimes offensive beliefs and ideas. Just as Marx believed that economics played the leading role in history, Freud believed it to be more on psychology. Freud’s beliefs were widely practiced during the slaughter World War I and then later followed up by the practices of Erik Erikson. Erik Erikson, most famous for his contribution in psycho-history, also believed that human nature was a vital part towards history. His study in “Young Man Luther” (1958) as found in the historiography packet on page 9 can be seen as the contribution to why historians pay such close attention to the people of history.

All historians who have contributed to the study of history hold an extreme importance in the play of it all. Without any of philosophers and historians previously listed we would not be aware of the many interpretations in history and know the bases of critical thinking and analytical study. Text books are tainted with opinions and perceptions. Thanks to these people we are able to see that more clearly and can really know what happened in history.