Editorial

By Fonder, Mark | Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, April 2004 | Go to article overview

Editorial


Fonder, Mark, Journal of Historical Research in Music Education


Jared Diamond won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for his book, Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. (1) In this remarkably ambitious book he accounts for why human development proceeded at different rates on the different continents over time. While the book is a fascinating and important read for information's sake, people interested in historical inquiry will find this book compelling on another level. Diamond is a master at asking questions of all sizes--hundreds of them. The following is a small sample of questions he asks (and ultimately responds to) for illustration's sake.

From the big picture:

* Why did [the modern world's] wealth and power become distributed as they now are, rather than some other way?

* Where, when, and how did food production develop in different parts of the globe?

* What effect, if any, did differences in the geographical orientation of the continents have on human history?

* Why did only some people and not others develop writing, given its overwhelming value?

* How did government and religion arise?

From the smaller or more focused picture:

* What plants were the first to be domesticated?

* Among island empires, why did writing arise in Minoan Crete but not Polynesian Tonga?

* Why did Europeans reach and conquer the lands of Native Americans, instead of vice versa?

* Why are we still using the QWERTY typewriter keyboard over its rivals when the reason for its usage has lost its legitimacy?

If these questions motivate readers to seek out this book for the answers, they will be rewarded. Through the analysis of hundreds of smaller studies in fields ranging from anthropology and linguistics to epidemiology and archeology, Diamond wrote a forceful conclusion to these and many more questions. These smaller, focused studies--representing work from hundreds of scientists, historians and other scholars--contributed to his synthesis. Diamond generously acknowledges his debt to these scholars.

Such smaller, more-focused studies reinforce why periodicals such as the Journal of Historical Research in Music Education are necessary. While small studies identify and respond to questions on the micro-level, these snapshots eventually yield a large panoramic mural of apparent truth; at least until more data are contributed. Perhaps questions posed in this issue and other volumes will prompt a future synthesis in which our most influential developments, methodologies, educators, and movements can be addressed. …

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