Historical Methods in Mass Communication

By James D. Startt; William David Sloan | Go to book overview

2
Interpretation in History

History is more than the story of what happened in the past. It is not simply an account of certain events occurring on certain dates and of certain individuals doing certain things. Dates, names, and places provide little more than the raw data for history. Anytime we advance beyond such basic details, we soon realize that history well researched and effectively told does more than provide chronologies and lists. If we attempt to determine, for example, whether a particular journalist or an event had an impact on American journalism or if we attempt to explain what that impact might have been or the extent of the impact or its value, we immediately find that history is no longer a simple statement of what happened. It has become an attempt to explain what happened.

In that process of explaining, historians have not always shared the same views. One historian might approach a subject from a starting viewpoint that varies either in small or large degree from that of another. Thus, in the nearly two centuries that American historians have been writing about their media's history, they have given accounts that differ widely. One historian might condemn the party press for its partisanship, while another might praise it for its contributions to the American political system. One historian might rebuke the media for propaganda during World War II, while another might salute them for contributing to Allied victory. Such differences can frustrate students who wish to have the "true" history of communication, but they actually provide one of the most valuable features of historical study. Differing perspectives among historians result in pictures and explanations that are multi-dimensional rather than flat, multi-colored rather than

-19-

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Historical Methods in Mass Communication
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - The Nature of History 1
  • 2 - Interpretation in History 19
  • 3 - The Fundamentals of 'Good' History 41
  • 4 - Basic Procedures and Techniques 65
  • 5 - Searching for Historical Materials 81
  • 6 - Historical Sources and Their Evaluation 113
  • 7 - Explanation in History 141
  • 8 - Writing 157
  • 9 - Presentation and Publication 171
  • Bibliography 183
  • Index of Subjects 195
  • Index of Names 205
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