What is history?
What is History?
Historical study is not the study of the past but
the study of present traces of the past. If
people have said, thought, done or suffered
anything of which nothing no longer exists,
those things are as though they had never been
- G R Elton
Historical Sources
• primary
• secondary
Primary Sources
Problems:- individual fallibility/ bias
- social bias
- deliberate manipulation
Primary Sources
Primary Sources
Who controls the past controls the future, who
controls the present controls the past
- George Orwell
Secondary Sources
historiography:- the study of the writings of history
Historical Causes
The annalist is content to say that one thing
followed another; what distinguishes the
historian is the proposition that one thing led
to another
- Isaiah Berlin
Historical Causes
Causes of the First World War
M. militarism
A. alliances divide Europe into competing camps
N. nationalistic feelings (desire for war)
I. imperialism
A. alliances cause diplomatic failures
C. competition over colonies in Africa/Asia
S. Serbian assassination of Archduke Ferdinand
Historical Causes
The human universe is so enormously
complicated that to speak of the cause of any
event is an absurdity
- H A L Fisher
Historical Causes
individual motives
chance occurences
social and economic conditions
geographical conditions
Historical Causes: individual motives
The history of the world is but the biography of
great men
- Thomas Carlyle
Historical Causes: individual motives
The cause of the event means the thought in the
mind of the person by whose agency the event
came about...All history is then the history of
- R G Collingwood
Historical Causes: chance occurences
Had Cleopatra’s nose been shorter, the whole
history of the world would have been different
- Blaise Pascal
Historical Causes: social and economic conditions
The history of all hitherto existing society is the
history of class struggles
- Karl Marx
Historical Causes: geographical conditions
History and Narrative
• Deteriorationist
• Positivist
• Circular
History and Narrative
Of course, if History were nothing but a
succession of extraneous ‘accidents’, it could
not be a serious study at all.
- E H Carr
History and Narrative
Men wiser and more learned than I have discerned in
history a plot, a rhythm, a predetermined pattern.
These harmonies are concealed from me. I can see
only one emergency following another as wave
follows upon wave, only one great fact with respect to
which, since it is unique, there can be no
generalizations, only one safe rule for the historian:
that he should recognize in the development of human
destinies the play of the contingent and the
- H A L Fisher
The role of the historian
There is a two-way traffic between past and
present, the present being moulded out of the
past, yet constantly recreating the past
- E H Carr
Historical Bias
• topic choice bias
• confirmation bias
• national bias
Historical Bias
The awkward thing about history is that bias seems
an essential element in it- even in the best of
history. The fact is that the facts do not, as is
sometimes said, ‘speak for themselves’
- E H Carr
Historical Objectivity
Historical Perspective
Can we learn the lessons of history?
Those who don’t study the past are condemned to
repeat it
- George Satayana
History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy,
the second time as farce
- Karl Marx
History and Prediction
History and Truth
Linking Questions