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A historians statement why i study history

Source criticism Source criticism or information evaluation is the process of evaluating the qualities of an information sourcesuch as its validity, reliability, and relevance to the subject under investigation. Gilbert J Garraghan divides source criticism into six inquiries: Where was it produced localization?

By whom was it produced authorship? From what pre-existing material was it produced analysis? In what original form was it produced integrity? What is the evidential value of its contents credibility? The first four are known as higher criticism ; the fifth, lower criticism ; and, together, external criticism. The sixth and final inquiry about a source is called internal criticism.

All people are living histories – which is why History matters

Together, this inquiry is known as source criticism. Shafer on external criticism: However, majority does not rule; even if most sources relate events in one way, that version will not prevail unless it passes the test of critical textual analysis. The source whose account can be confirmed by reference to outside authorities in some of its parts can be trusted in its entirety if it is impossible similarly to confirm the entire text.

When two sources disagree on a particular point, the historian will prefer the source with most "authority"—that is the source created by the expert or by the eyewitness. Eyewitnesses are, in general, to be preferred especially in circumstances where the ordinary observer could have accurately reported what transpired and, more specifically, when they deal with facts known by most contemporaries.

If two independently created sources agree on a matter, the reliability of each is measurably enhanced. When two sources disagree and there is no other means of evaluation, then historians take the source which seems to accord best with common sense.

Subsequent descriptions of historical method, outlined below, have attempted to overcome the credulity built into the first step formulated by the nineteenth century historiographers by stating principles not merely by which different reports can be harmonized but instead by which a statement found in a source may be considered to be unreliable or reliable as it stands on its own.

Relics are more credible sources than narratives. Any given source may be forged or corrupted. Strong indications of the originality a historians statement why i study history the source increase its reliability. The closer a source is to the event which it purports to describe, the more one can trust it to give an accurate historical description of what actually happened. An eyewitness is more reliable than testimony at second handwhich is more reliable than hearsay at further removeand so on.

If a number of independent sources contain the same message, the credibility of the message is strongly increased.

  1. When asked 'Why History?
  2. Nonetheless, this is the phrasing that is attributed to Ford and it is this dictum that is often quoted by people wishing to express their scepticism about the subject. People engage with history in different ways, for example by undertaking family or local history, visiting museums, monuments and heritage sites.
  3. But that says absolutely nothing about the content of the subject.
  4. Did he have the proper social ability to observe. It looks at people over times past and present in different societies, noticing and explaining their attitudes, beliefs and behaviours, and interpreting their reactions to the various pressures, conditions and events that induce change.
  5. However, majority does not rule; even if most sources relate events in one way, that version will not prevail unless it passes the test of critical textual analysis.

The tendency of a source is its motivation for providing some kind of bias. Tendencies should be minimized or supplemented with opposite motivations. If it can be demonstrated that the witness or source has no direct interest in creating bias then the credibility of the message is increased.

Eyewitness evidence[ edit ] R. Shafer offers this checklist for evaluating eyewitness testimony: Are words used in senses not employed today? Is the statement meant to be ironic i. How well could the author observe the thing he reports? Were his senses equal to the observation? Was his physical location suitable to sight, hearing, touch? Did he have the proper social ability to observe: How did the author report?

Regarding his ability to report, was he biased? Did he have proper time for reporting? Proper place for reporting? When did he report in relation to his observation? Fifty years is much later as most eyewitnesses are dead and those who remain may have forgotten relevant material. What was the author's intention in reporting?

For whom did he report? Would that audience be likely to require or suggest distortion to the author? Are there additional clues to intended veracity? Was he indifferent on the subject reported, thus probably not intending distortion? Did he make statements damaging to himself, thus probably not seeking to distort? Did he give incidental or casual information, almost certainly not intended to mislead? Do his statements seem inherently improbable: Remember that some types of information are easier to observe and report on than others.

Are there inner contradictions in the document? Louis Gottschalk adds an additional consideration: If an ancient inscription on a road tells us that a certain proconsul built that road while Augustus was princepsit may be doubted without further corroboration that that proconsul really built the road, but would be harder to doubt that the road was built during the principate of Augustus.

If an advertisement informs readers that 'A and B Coffee may be bought at any reliable grocer's at the a historians statement why i study history price of fifty cents a pound,' all the inferences of the advertisement may well be doubted without corroboration except that there is a brand of coffee on the market called 'A and B Coffee.

He writes, "In cases where he uses secondary witnesses. Satisfactory answers to the second and third questions may provide the historian with the whole or the gist of the primary testimony upon which the secondary witness may be his only means of knowledge. In such cases the secondary source is the historian's 'original' source, in the sense of being the 'origin' of his knowledge.

Insofar as this 'original' source is an accurate report of primary testimony, he tests its credibility as he would that of the primary testimony itself. The tradition should be supported by an unbroken series of witnesses, reaching from the immediate and first reporter of the fact to the living mediate witness from whom we take it up, or to the one who was the first to commit it to writing.

There should be several parallel and independent series of witnesses testifying to the fact in question.

  1. From what pre-existing material was it produced analysis?
  2. Having access to abundant information, whether varnished or unvarnished, does not in itself mean that people can make sense of the data.
  3. When did he report in relation to his observation? And it exemplifies a certain no-nonsense approach of the stereotypical go-ahead businessman, unwilling to be hide-bound by old ways.
  4. Such reasoning was behind the recent and highly controversial decision in Britain to remove History from the required curriculum for schoolchildren aged 14—16. Would you want a doctor who takes a cursory glance at your symptoms, and decides you have the flu, all the while ignoring the evidence of the rash?
  5. Are there additional clues to intended veracity?

The tradition must report a public event of importance, such as would necessarily be known directly to a great number of persons. The tradition must have been generally believed, at least for a definite period of time. During that definite period it must have gone without protest, even from persons interested in denying it.

The tradition must be one of relatively limited duration. Other methods of verifying oral tradition may exist, such as comparison with the evidence of archaeological remains.

Historical method

More recent evidence concerning the potential reliability or unreliability of oral tradition has come out of fieldwork in West Africa and Eastern Europe.

Argument to the best explanation[ edit ] C. Behan McCullagh lays down seven conditions for a successful argument to the best explanation: We will henceforth call the first statement 'the a historians statement why i study history ', and the statements describing observable data, 'observation statements'.

The hypothesis must be of greater explanatory scope than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must imply a greater variety of observation statements. The hypothesis must be of greater explanatory power than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must make the observation statements it implies more probable than any other. The hypothesis must be more plausible than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must be implied to some degree by a greater variety of accepted truths than any other, and be implied more strongly than any other; and its probable negation must be implied by fewer beliefs, and implied less strongly than any other.

The hypothesis must be less ad hoc than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must include fewer new suppositions about the past which are not already implied to some extent by existing beliefs.

It must be disconfirmed by fewer accepted beliefs than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, when conjoined with accepted truths it must imply fewer observation statements and other statements which are believed to be false. It must exceed other incompatible hypotheses about the same subject by so much, in characteristics 2 to 6, that there is little chance of an incompatible hypothesis, after further investigation, soon exceeding it in these respects.

Why Study History

McCullagh sums up, "if the scope and strength of an explanation are very great, so that it explains a large number and variety of facts, many more than any competing explanation, then it is likely to be true. It is probable to the degree p2 that this is an A. McCullagh gives this example: From all appearances the letters V. This is a syllogism in probabilistic form, making use of a generalization formed by induction from numerous examples as the first premise.

Argument from analogy[ edit ] The structure of the argument is as follows: Another thing has properties p1. McCullagh says that an argument from analogy, if sound, is either a "covert statistical syllogism" or better expressed as an argument to the best explanation. Analogy, therefore, is uncontroversial only when used to suggest hypotheses, not as a conclusive argument.