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Windschuttle Summary - Summary of The Killing of History...

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Summary of The Killing of History Historical Research Techniques Paula Koren The world’s view of history is rapidly changing. Keith Windschuttle tells how history, once known as a field in which one strove for objectivity and unbiased accuracy, has now become a branch of “cultural study”. As opposed to traditional history, the cultural study of history has roots in leftist politics. It is susceptible to the criticisms and theories which can mold, shape, or downright twist anything into a biased mold in order to communicate the viewpoint of the one writing it. Not only is history now susceptible to biases, but those who have redefined it as a discipline have declared it impossible to find certain, factual truth. Without facts, the stories of history become nothing but novels set in the past. A recently popularized variety of history as a cultural study is “new historicism”. “Historicism” is an older idea, dating to the 1800’s, which says that the past should only be viewed in light of its own values and context, rather than those of the persons viewing it. “New historicism”, its descendant of the late 20 th century says that there is no past world, only texts. In other words, all that exists of the past is limited to texts about the world of the past. These texts are composed in a certain language which is determined by the people who use it to communicate thoughts and ideas. Therefore in order to understand history and properly expound upon it, a historian much understand the texts, which are our only link to the past, in terms of the society which created them. Historians much then study prevailing economics, philosophies, politics, and other cultural factors in order to be competent in their own discipline. Derrida and Foucault’s poststructuralism goes even further as to say that all that exists in both the past and present are texts, since even we, in the present, are confined to language to understand the world around us. However, beyond this commonality, Derrida and Foucault differ in ideas. Derrida’s preferred method of historical interpretation is to deconstruct texts and find the number of meanings in them, some of which the writer did not necessarily intend to communicate. This is quite opposed to traditional literary criticism’s attempt to find the one true meaning of a text. Foucault said that “knowledge” was determined by whoever was in power, and therefore that a historian should chip away at this oppression and expose all “truth”, not just that which is accepted by those in power. This idea eliminates absoluteness of truth, if that which is considered false is only false because it is not acceptable to those in power. This subjective viewing of truth falls right in line with much of postmodern theory.
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