Historians often encounter difficulties when researching and

Historians often encounter difficulties when researching and interpreting the
past. How does this influence the way people view history?
Historians, almost by definition, are the people who write history. They are our
only connection with the past, except for our own limited reflections.
Ideally, one would hope that they could be one hundred percent accurate with
their facts and interpretations of events, but more often than not, the events
on which they are reporting are poorly recorded and in the distant past.
Much of the information that the have access to is unverifiable or anecdotal,
or relies on contemporary accounts, some of which mat well be of doubtful
A further complicating factor is that almost invariably, historians will,
intentionally or not, bring their own subjectivity to their reporting and analysis
of events, and if this is detected by the reader, doubt sets in.
Furthermore, two historians can write about the same event, and come up
with totally different conclusions.
In the case of the battle of Agincourt on25 October, 1415, to which there were
many eyewitnesses who later recorded what they saw, historians thought
there were probably 6000 English and 30000 French soldiers involved. In
2005, an eminent historian amended those figures to 9000 and 12000.
Which of these figures are we to believe? Sometimes, history is a matter of
the choice the reader makes.
Each of these issues reflects on how history is perceived by the reader or
Much of how the reader views history depends upon the credibility of the
particular historian. Some historians, even ancient ones such as Pliny, seem
to be universally regarded as credible, but is that, perhaps, because no
contemporary has challenged his accounts. History, therefore to a certain
extent an exercise in trust tempered by judgement. To accept all that is put
before us as history would be foolish.
Finally, political bias often cause doubt in the mind of the reader. For
example, the United Nations has agreed that any mention of the Holocaust
can be edited out of History books for Palestinian children. Anything more
likely to destroy trust in historians is hard to imagine.
This Document was created on 12 September 2009