***Objective History is Impossible. And That’s a Fact. – The Tattooed Professor.pdf

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6/5/19, 5(03 PM Objective History is Impossible. And Thatʼs a Fact. – The Tattooed Professor Page 1 of 6 The Tattooed Professor History, Teaching, and Technology with a Custom Paint Job Objective History is Impossible. And That’s a Fact. There are facts, and there are historical facts, E.H. Carr reminded us years ago. Fact: lots of people crossed the Rubicon. Historical fact: Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 BCE. A fact is embedded within a historical context–or set of contexts–that gives it historical significance and meaning. So when does a plain old “fact” rise to the level of “historical fact?” The short answer: when a historian decides it does. The fact and its context acquire historical meaning in retrospect, as they are recovered, interpreted, and presented by the historian. Caesar crossing the Rubicon is important if you care about Caesar and the developments with Rome that came out of his decision to move south out of the alps. Facts happened. Historical facts happened, but then someone asked of them, “so what?” That’s it, and that’s all. Carr’s distinction illuminates a critically important element in the epistemology of the historian: significance is not inherent, but bestowed. This alone should give serious pause when someone prattles on about historians needing to be “objective.” The myth of objectivity presupposes inherent significance; that is, certain facts are a priori historical. George Washington is important,and therefore his doings are historical facts. It’s merely reporting the truth to observe this, we are told.
6/5/19, 5(03 PM Objective History is Impossible. And Thatʼs a Fact. – The Tattooed Professor Q: Well, define “important.”
Page 2 of 6 Q: If that’s the criteria, where are the legions of hagiographies on smallpox, climate change, and the transatlantic slave trade? Didn’t they shape “our society today” in an even more fundamental sense?
Q: So that’s why we have all these books about Washington? Because he’s uber-historical?

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