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Old August 5th, 2010, 07:52 AM   #11

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Re: History and Historians


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Originally Posted by Comet View Post
I think combining what you did with what Black Dog contributed would make a solid introduction for any Introduction to History or Historical Methods course.
Indeed. Reminds me a lot of this:


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Old August 5th, 2010, 08:03 AM   #12
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Re: History and Historians


Nice thoughtful overview, Black Dog! I would suggest only one change: NOTHING happens in isolation.
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Old August 5th, 2010, 08:06 AM   #13

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Re: History and Historians


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"How many of you guys read posts that are longer than a paragraph??"

For me, that's a deal breaker. The topic alone will lure me in. But when the poster cuts and paste something thinking they get paid by the letter, that loses me. A point can be made in about 300 words then followed up in answering others who comment on the thread. Long threads or responses give me dead head.

I half agree with you here. I think a point can be made within 300 words, but explaining that point (which might well require definitions, exemplifications, qualifications, contextualisations) takes a lot more words than any brief paragraph can possibly contain. Similarly, most historical topics are actually far more complex than ny brief statement can communicate. A couple of days ago, I wrote briefly on German-Japanese relations between about 1936 and 1942 (iirc) but did so full in the knowledge that it was a brief overview only and failed to account for how the Japanese perceived the Germans. I wrote a thousand words or so a knew that I was only partially getting close to a reasonable answer. Maybe I could've just made a couple of points within 300 - 400 words, but then that would've undermined what others had written in the thread without giving reasonable justification for why I was doing that.

But then, I have to note that I've seen posts here that look like walls of text. When I've gotten to reading them, they tell me nothing of value. Lots of words, very little substance. So, not all long posts are worth reading.
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Old August 5th, 2010, 08:07 AM   #14

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Re: History and Historians


Thanks very much, Comet, Avon and everyone else. Comet, feel free to use the post as you wish.

I agree, Avon, that most people here are "historical dabblers" and this is not a University. I also agree that being able to cite reputable sources is very important: you'd have to in an academic situation

I'm glad so many (so far!) agree with what I've written. Although Avon has indeed written it before me
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Old August 5th, 2010, 08:10 AM   #15

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Re: History and Historians


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..But then, I have to note that I've seen posts here that look like walls of text. When I've gotten to reading them, they tell me nothing of value. Lots of words, very little substance. So, not all long posts are worth reading.
Agreed. I believe if a member feels strongly about a Historical topic, not a knife in mouth, sword in hand trap to argue with members and build up their posting count, then they should be able to answer each query with the same information that they typed in their 'wall of text'. Answer a question with books and pages showing you've read more than a website then I'll listen to you.
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Old August 5th, 2010, 08:11 AM   #16

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Re: History and Historians


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Thanks very much, Comet, Avon and everyone else. Comet, feel free to use the post as you wish.
Perhaps we could 'sticky' this thread!?!

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I agree, Avon, that most people here are "historical dabblers" and this is not a University. I also agree that being able to cite reputable sources is very important: you'd have to in an academic situation
It doesn't have to be a rule, but it does no harm to try and encourage such practices in all serious debates. Besides that, there are reasons - simple reasons - that academics spend so much time considering the sources.

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I'm glad so many (so far!) agree with what I've written. Although Avon has indeed written it before me
Yes, but you did it better!
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Old August 5th, 2010, 08:13 AM   #17

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Re: History and Historians


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Perhaps we could 'sticky' this thread!?!


Quote:
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It doesn't have to be a rule, but it does no harm to try and encourage such practices in all serious debates. Besides that, there are reasons - simple reasons - that academics spend so much time considering the sources.

I think its a great idea and I will work on that now. Hopefully it will encourage such practices.
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Old August 5th, 2010, 08:17 AM   #18

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Re: History and Historians


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Agreed. I believe if a member feels strongly about a Historical topic, not a knife in mouth, sword in hand trap to argue with members and build up their posting count, then they should be able to answer each query with the same information that they typed in their 'wall of text'. Answer a question with books and pages showing you've read more than a website then I'll listen to you.
I knew you'd agree to that part!

Part of the problem with insisting on sources is that, as amateurs, most people do not log citations within careful research that an historian would. I confess that I frequently rely upon memory and an imperfect ability to re-locate a book when needed.
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Old August 5th, 2010, 08:21 AM   #19

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Re: History and Historians


I think I've latched onto the 'cite your sources' bandwagon because I'm enrolled in taking my Masters in US History and when I write a paper, like I'm in the midst of doing now about the French Revolution, I have to site like this:
1. Ruth Scurr, Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2006), 49.

If I leave off one dot or semicolon or whatever, the professors always catch that and take off points.
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Old August 5th, 2010, 08:21 AM   #20
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Re: History and Historians


That's an awesome post, Black Dog. But surely you know it?

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OBJECTIVITY

Which means putting aside moral judgements (at this point) and keeping a completely open mind.
If that criterion were strictly enforced I wonder how many historians would actually see their books published. Objectivity is an ideal we can only aspire to, regardless of our profession. Most history books I've read clearly betray the author's bias at some point or the other. Either they love their subject and make no effort to hide it and though they cover a counterview just to keep the narrative balanced, they do so in a way that makes light of the counterview. It's either mentioned in passing or in a way that attacks the motives of those who hold that counterview. On the other hand there are those who go bersek attacking their subject and display the same attitude towards a counterview as the former category. I don't think such tactics fool the reader.

Objectivity also tends to get tricky. You say a historian has to interpret the data, look at it in its entirety, connect the dots, so to speak, and yet to do this he must take a stand. If you were to keep things completely objective, you would not be able to make any categoric statements, all arguments would appear dilute, your tone would appear non-committal, and your editor would probably ask you: "What is the point of this book?"

And if you were to reply "We don't really know" I doubt your honesty would be rewarded.

Not to take anything away from your excellent argments, I'm just giving a counterview.



Quote:

BE EXTREMELY SCEPTICAL

When studying primary- or secondary- material, be sceptical. What motives might an author have for writing? Wouldn't one expect a Conservative writer to condemn the Trade Union movements? Or a Communist to condemn the ideas of Adam Smith (and therefore anything that came from such ideas)?. Wouldn't a Conservative Royalist condemn Cromwell? Bias is everywhere: it shouldn't be, but it is. One who believes in Jewish World Domination is also likely to believe that the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" are real. These people are rarely MAD or LIARS.

Primary sources are no better: 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?
I suppose we are all doomed to never finding out the real truth.
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