Historiography Essay

Historiography Essay-39
If the interviewer knows a good deal already, he may be able to jog or correct an otherwise recalcitrant memory or to know what is reliable and what is not.Except for the tape or video recorder, techniques for verifying oral testimony have perhaps progressed little since Thucydides.As the emphasis of many historians has turned to social history, especially history “from the bottom up,” they have had to create their own evidence through interviews with those shut out of the documentary record.

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Getting permission to do an interview, and if possible to tape it, is the first task of the oral historian.

Arrangements may have to be made to protect confidentiality; elaborate protocols about this have been worked out by anthropologists, which historians may emulate.

(1851–62); without these we would not know of their attitudes toward marriage and organized religion (casual for both).

One of the first great collaborative efforts in oral history was the interviews with former African American slaves conducted in the 1930s by researchers working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

Years after him, however, Polybius, a prominent Greek and a Roman captive, recorded Roman history in an attempt to convince the Greeks of the exceeding Roman power and its inevitable success of domination through the Tactics, which detailed Roman and Greek military tactics, and The Histories, where he concluded that the mixed nature of the Roman constitution contributed much to their success as a government.

The context in which the “writing” of the history took place reveals a lot of the differences in the forms used, the intent communicated by the authors, and what actually happened in the past.Although the emphasis of this article falls on what historians share, it is well to remember that deviations from these norms are always lurking.The oldest source, oral history, is also in some ways the newest.Although anyone who could remember slavery would by then have been well over 70 years old, the subsequently published interviews nevertheless tapped a rich vein of family stories as well as personal memories.An enterprise on a similar scale is being carried out with survivors of the Holocaust; now, however, thanks to videotaping, one can see the interviews and not merely read edited transcripts of them.People remember things that historians have no independent way of discovering; however, they also seem to remember things that did not happen or that happened quite differently.And, of course, they often fail to remember things that did happen.Different techniques are required for investigating the history of peoples who adopted writing only recently.These used to be regarded as “people without history,” but historians are now beginning to isolate the historical content of their oral traditions.As the previous section has demonstrated, there are many branches of history today, each with different kinds of evidence, particular canons of interpretation, and distinctive conventions of writing.This diversity has led some to wonder whether the term still designates an integral body of or approach to knowledge.


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