The Historian and Historical Evidence

The Historian and Historical Evidence

The Historian and Historical Evidence

The Historian and Historical Evidence

Excerpt

To those who believe that literary cleverness and common sense are the only needful equipment for a historian, this book will seem a work of supererogation. Why all this pother about the technique of criticism, the assessment of evidence, and such pedantry? they will ask. Why is it not possible to set down historical happenings just as they occurred? The answer is simple enough to all writers of history who have tried to tell "just how it was" or "how it came to be." Rarely does historical information come to the historian through his own direct, personal observation: it is almost always mediated through some other human intelligence. And so long as human testimony is what it is -- subject to all the deflecting influences of time, personality, place, and circumstance -- so long must historians learn not only how to collect evidence but how to measure and weigh it. In writing this little book I have had in mind not only future writers of history but that intelligent reading public which would know how to discriminate between histories and histories.

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