Oral History: An Introduction for Students

Oral History: An Introduction for Students

Oral History: An Introduction for Students

Oral History: An Introduction for Students

Synopsis

This work explains the methodologies used in oral history collections and gives tips on how to put them into practice.

Excerpt

Too often we forget that history is, among other things, an exercise of the imagination. History, like life, is a test of our ability imaginatively to place ourselves in the positions of other people, so that we can understand the reasons for their actions. Through research and study we learn facts about those other people. But we can never know everything about anyone, living or dead. The historical record is always incomplete. Imagination must fill in the gaps in our knowledge, though of course our imaginings must derive from facts and be consistent with them. Dependence on imagination is characteristic of all study of human behavior, including, for example, psychology or sociology. But in history there is the added problem that the people we hope to understand lived in other times and may therefore be more remote from us than people in foreign lands today. Only through superior acts of the imagination can we hope to understand people so removed from ourselves.

Because history is an act of our minds, historical knowledge can lead to self-knowledge. To test or verify historical thought we must check not only the data or facts but also our thinking itself. We therefore learn not only about history . . .

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