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Old June 17th, 2015, 11:42 AM   #171

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What I meant is when "Historians" and particularly popular TV history produce an exception and make him/her sound like such people were commonplace. An example: in a child's book in a primary school (age 5 to 11), it had a section about WW2. The author asked "why not ask what your great grandmother did in the war? She may have been a pilot!".

Now in Britain at least, say the word "Pilot" in the same discussion as WW2, and everyone thinks fighter pilots or the Dambusters. What happens here is a half truth deliberately distorted by association in order to make the past just like today. And that is what is really insulting on so many levels. A small number of women did fly fighter aircraft (in order to deliver them to airfields) and that's the truth which becomes distorted into "women flew fighters, too" and in many minds "flying fighters" equals "fighter or bomber pilot".

Another example: last year was the centenary of WW1. We heard the usual middle class centric stuff about middle and upper class girls becoming nurses, but virtually nothing about working class women (most of whom would have been far better nurses than middle class girls who often had zero experience of even cooking a meal) who endured hard, dangerous and unhealthy work under a tyrannical regime and for very little pay in the munitions factories. Plenty were blown to pieces.

This is about as accurate as painting those who endured slavery in America or Jim Crow as "happy smiling" or insisting that the few black people who "made it" are representative of the entirety's experience. Hold up one exception and make it the rule. No, this would not be the truth. That's the kind of manipulative, dishonest "history" I condemn.

As I said in my original post, the most common answer an honest historian would have, by necessity, is "we don't know". But to say "we don't know" is honest. It is the truth.
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Old June 17th, 2015, 11:57 AM   #172

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Historians don't answer questions with: "we don't know". They present the main theories. This is not in any way unique to history.

Last edited by Offspring; June 17th, 2015 at 11:59 AM.
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Old June 17th, 2015, 11:59 AM   #173

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Originally Posted by Offspring View Post
Historians don't answer questions with "we don't know". They present the main theories. This is not in any way unique to history.
Indeed.

I think part of the problem lies in the way the general populace views history. Many people think that History is a single, continuous story (usually starting in ancient Mesopotamia and Greece) and ending in the present. Most people are not aware of the huge dearth of historical documentation for many periods, the massively different historical theories which abound and contradict each other and the intense in fighting among historians.
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Old June 17th, 2015, 12:11 PM   #174

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And if they present only ONE main theory, they are plainly giving only one side of the argument and are hence biased, inadequate or deceitful. If they give both sides and fail to resolve the problem, then they are saying "we don't know". Likewise if they suspect one argument to be true but cannot prove it.

If you'd bothered to read the OP, that would be obvious. Who crowned Harold King? Stigand or Aldred? We don't know.

Who set the Reichstag fire? A disaffected Dutch youngster, or the Nazis themselves? We don't know.

I could go on.

A pro Nazi would blame the Dutch boy. But he'd be biased and would have no compelling evidence.

One who twists facts to suit his theory is a Journalist, not a historian.
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Old June 17th, 2015, 01:16 PM   #175
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A fine post indeed, i heartily agree although i must recommend the counter to objective history in the form of E.H.Carr's book "What is history".

-AL-
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Old June 17th, 2015, 01:59 PM   #176

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If you'd bothered to read the OP
I read it before replying, like I do with every thread I post in.
Quote:
If they give both sides and fail to resolve the problem, then they are saying "we don't know"
Quote:
Who crowned Harold King? Stigand or Aldred? We don't know.
This is how you put it in your OP:
Quote:
Robert of Jumieges (Norman historian to William I) write his account of the England/Normandy affair, stating that Archbishop Stigand crowned Harold King, whilst English sources state than he was crowned by Aldred, Archbishop of York. BOTH have powerful motives for saying what they did. Who is right?

Real Historians can give you the answer: "We don't really know".
That is not a presentation of the two main theories. You didn't show what the arguments are for each side. Something like this:
Quote:
John of Worcester, a medieval chronicler, stated that Ealdred crowned King Harold II in 1066, although the Norman chroniclers mention Stigand as the officiating prelate.[3] Given Ealdred's known support of Godwin's family, John of Worcester is probably correct.[1] Stigand's position as archbishop was canonically suspect, and as earl Harold had not allowed Stigand to consecrate one of the earl's churches, it is unlikely that Harold would have allowed Stigand to perform the much more important royal coronation.[60] Arguments for Stigand having performed the coronation, however, rely on the fact that no other English source names the ecclesiastic who performed the ceremony; all Norman sources name Stigand as the presider.[61] In all events, Ealdred and Harold were close, and Ealdred supported Harold's bid to become king.[19][62] Ealdred perhaps accompanied Harold when the new king went to York and secured the support of the northern magnates shortly after Harold's consecration.[63]
is far more useful. It is ironic that you said this, in your OP:
Quote:
You will not get away with being shallow under the banner of being "succinct". "Succinct" answers do not really exist in history: try mathematics if you like succinct. Or Twitter.
I used wiki for crowning thing, because I'm unfamiliar with the subject. I'll give an example I'm familiar with, in order to better show you what I meant with my first post.

Ashraf Marwan was married with Mona Gamal Abdel Nasser, the daughter of the Egyptian president. He went to the Israeli embassy in London, in July 1970, to spy for them. There is a debate on whom he actually worked for: Israel or Egypt.

The arguments for the first view are: he divulged a series of important information to Israel which greatly damaged Egypt and he did alert the Israelis about the Yom Kippur War 40 hours before it began. He didn't know about it earlier, because the Egyptians tried very hard to make it a secret.

The arguments for the second view are: he warned Israel about an attack from Egypt in the autumn of 1972 and the spring of 1973. Israel mobilized both times. Egypt was able to monitor the Israeli reactions and model their plans accordingly. Of course, this side argues that the important info he did gave Israel was given in order to gain its trust and that the warning was too late (the counter to this being that Israel was given 40 important hours to prepare for war and that there was no need for that, if he worked for Egypt).

If Marwan was planted by the Egyptians, then he did his job extremely well and the Israeli security failure can be easily understood, because of the difficulty of uncovering a double agent. If he was not planted by the Egyptians, then Israel failed into its own trap, by transforming him into such a powerful influence in their decision making process (their entire security concept was built on info given by him). This was detrimental to sources which could have prevented the failure.

You can still work with the information, even if you don't know which theory is correct. You can still draw conclusions about the Israeli security concept and the Israeli decision making process, even when you don't know a very important information like that. The work doesn't stop at: "we don't know".

Presenting the main arguments of the two sides and the consequences of either side being correct is what a historian should do. Simply saying that some say he worked for Egypt, while others say he worked for Israel, but we don't know whom he worked for, isn't sufficient.

You made it look like it's all about bias. In the case I presented, there are Arabs and Israelis on both sides, including high ranking members of the governments and the armies involved in the war. There are also people who despise him, but think he was a brilliant spy and people who adore him, but think he wasn't a good spy.

There are pro-Nazis who think the Nazis burned it.

The reason why I said: "this is not in any way unique to history" is because your OP makes it look like you think you discovered epistemology and that history is the only field which has problems with not knowing things for certain, when, in reality, it's not. It's not even isolated to social sciences. I don't think theoretical physics has an easier life than history, when it comes to this, for example.

Last edited by Offspring; June 17th, 2015 at 02:06 PM.
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Old June 17th, 2015, 02:20 PM   #177

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Kindly stop being idiotic. The OP was not about the Stigand affair, it was about how one should approach history in general. I mentioned the Stigand controversy only as an example, not as an in depth post.

And if I did post specifically about that subject, I wouldn't simply cut and paste someone else's work.

OK, so you tell me who crowned Harold, who set the Reichstag fire and, whilst we're at it, who invented the wheel.

There are many, many things we don't know and can't know. Ask an archaeologist. We can hardly agree on what happened 40 years ago. Those who manipulate facts in order to prove their preconceived theories are charlatans and/or journalists.

If you don't like my post, go and start your own thread on how guesswork is the same as solid facts.

Last edited by Black Dog; June 17th, 2015 at 02:24 PM.
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Old June 17th, 2015, 02:48 PM   #178

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OK, so you tell me who crowned Harold, who set the Reichstag fire and, whilst we're at it, who invented the wheel.
Quote:
If you don't like my post, go and start your own thread on how guesswork is the same as solid facts.
What are you talking about? I said:
Quote:
You can still work with the information, even if you don't know which theory is correct. You can still draw conclusions about the Israeli security concept and the Israeli decision making process, even when you don't know a very important information like that. The work doesn't stop at: "we don't know".

Presenting the main arguments of the two sides and the consequences of either side being correct is what a historian should do.
How do you equate that to "I know everything" or "we should guess"?
Quote:
if I did post specifically about that subject, I wouldn't simply cut and paste someone else's work.
I didn't. I pasted the wiki and mentioned it ("I used wiki for the crowning thing"). I don't see how what I did was unethical. I don't think I was supposed to do my own research on this subject, before replying on an internet forum. I don't see how I would have uncovered something new. What I pasted was perfect for my intention, which was to show the arguments of the two theories and how different that it from simply saying two theories exist and they are biased and we don't know.

If you're talking about Marwan, that's from my Bachelor's thesis (hence: "an example I'm familiar with"). I didn't post someone's work and then claimed it was mine. It was to show history isn't: "there are two theories, but we don't know which is true".
Quote:
The OP was not about the Stigand affair, it was about how one should approach history in general.
You made a big deal out of "we don't know" and then gave a bad example. You didn't present their arguments at all. I said your entire OP makes it look like it's all about biases. About that affair, you said: "BOTH have powerful motives for saying what they did.", which clearly suggests it's just about bias, not about facts and arguments.
Quote:
I mentioned the Stigand controversy only as an example, not as an in depth post.
And after that you said: "You will not get away with being shallow under the banner of being "succinct". "Succinct" answers do not really exist in history: try mathematics if you like succinct. Or Twitter.". I'm not asking for an essay. I gave the wiki quote to show how different that is from how you presented it. It wasn't nitpicking, because it was tied to my point that the existence of different theories doesn't just indicate the existence of different biases. Those theories are made out of facts and arguments, not just personal feelings.

Quote:
If you don't like my post, go and start your own thread on how guesswork is the same as solid facts.
A forum isn't meant to be an echo-chamber.

Show me where I indicated that I think guesswork is the same as solid facts? If you think history is only about solid facts, then can you name a history book which only has solid facts? A book which presents no theories, no speculations, no scenarios, no alternatives, just solid facts?

Not even the start of the Second World War is a solid fact.
Quote:
who invented the wheel
I was unaware there are different theories about the name of the person who invented the wheel. If there aren't, then how does this apply to what I'm talking about? It doesn't even apply to what you were talking about.

How is this: "Presenting the main arguments of the two sides and the consequences of either side being correct is what a historian should do." not correct?

Last edited by Offspring; June 17th, 2015 at 03:11 PM.
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Old June 17th, 2015, 03:11 PM   #179

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You are getting on my wick. So you want me to go into tiny detail of every controversy about history that ever was just to satisfy your rather dodgy theory that "one can guess"? I repeat, my post was to point out the pitfalls and problems historians can have when dealing with bias and also that there are a great many unknowns.

Your theory appears to be "take a guess and present it as fact", and your inability to sort out the relevant from the irrelevant is obvious by the fact that you misunderstand the purpose of the OP. Educated guesses are NOT facts, they are merely theories. One can know all the theories- and one should- but this may well not produce a FACT.

Nobody said the work stops at "we don't know". Don't be so foolish. The work would never START if that happened. But have you ever heard of conspiracy theories? Ever watched British "History" TV programmes, where conjecture is constantly passed off as fact? These are people who claim to know what Stonehenge was built for or what happened to the Knights Templar's money and the religious beliefs of the ancient Celts: things no-one can know with any certainty, because in the first example, no-one wrote down a damned thing, and in the second case, likewise. One can guess, but no-one knows. And as for the last, the only primary sources we have are Roman and therefore rather suspect. You can't expect me to deal with every controversy in history in what was already a long post. My post was not about the controversies, but merely to point out that they exist and most have several theories attached to them. As do most historical events. Some we cannot or do not know the truth of.

Now kindly stop being childish. For the last time, the OP was NOT there to deal with minutiae of individual historical theories, but to warn new historians and to help them to be aware of the problems historians have, such as bias, scarcity of primary evidence, scarcity of any evidence, revisionism of any kind, how meanings change over time, anachronistic value judgements...

If you want to write a thread about your way of doing things, please feel free. Don't harass me about a post most people get the point of and you plainly don't.
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Old June 17th, 2015, 04:14 PM   #180

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Don't harass me about a post most people get the point of and you plainly don't.
I don't see how this is harassment. It's a public forum, you don't have to read my posts and I only made 2 replies to you.
Quote:
If you want to write a thread about your way of doing things, please feel free.
"Ebert's law".
Quote:
I repeat, my post was to point out the pitfalls and problems historians can have when dealing with bias and also that there are a great many unknowns.
Yes, and I was pointing out one of the flaws in your OP (btw, you seem oddly emotionally attached to it).
Quote:
Your theory appears to be "take a guess and present it as fact"
How did you arrive to that conclusion?
Quote:
You can't expect me to deal with every controversy in history in what was already a long post.
What made you think I expected that?
Quote:
the OP was NOT there to deal with minutiae of individual historical theories
Constantly being hyperbolic isn't useful. I said you should have presented the arguments, instead of just saying what are the sources and making it look like it's all just bias, like you did. You could have at least said they have powerful arguments or arguments and motives, not just motives. It's not nitpicking, because it's in the context of your entire OP where you make it look like different opinions are just caused by different biases and that is how they should be treated. You interrogate the sources, you establish the biases and that's it.

Your guessing-knowing dichotomy is terribly simplistic. How many solid facts do we have about Hitler and how many guesses? A history book containing only solid facts would be the size of a booklet.

Last edited by Offspring; June 17th, 2015 at 04:31 PM.
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