History, or at least the study thereof, as shown by class, is divided into three specific categories: remembered, recovered and invented--each having their own benefits and downfalls. The main purpose of studying history is to gather information about the past; to see the cause and effects of different situations; to see how this information can be applied to our lives, to understand why and how and others think in certain ways; and thus eventually lead to a better appreciation different peoples—one way or another. It is also inprotant to realize that history is not just about ‘what-really-happened-in-the-past’, but is a complex intersection of truth, bias and hopes.
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Because he is one of the first men that we have found to attempt to record the past, we say that Herodotus is the “Father of History.” Herodotus’s works, “The Histories”, which are of form of both a remembered and invented are a record of primarily two things: the Persian Wars, and the Greeks’ double defeat of the mighty forces led against Greece by the Persian kings Darius and Xerxes. Just as any good entertaining story would, the histories are full of gossip, religion (gods), and a little sex to make it a bit juicy. We now know that many of these things were either made-up, mere legends, or even outright lies—another characteristic that a good story would also have; and thus we add to his title: Herodotus, “the father of history as well as lies”.
Another historian-storyteller, Homer, shows us that sometimes the best histories are, in essence, the best stories. He also provides an example of oral, or remembered history. While Herodotus was the father of history, it can also be argued that Homer was the father of writing. His epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey, are fictional epics. However, it is apparent that, to some extent, there may be truths within them. Later, Virgil, another great epic poet wrote the Aeneid, which also proved valuable in the study of these ancient Greek cultures.
From this we acquire the first realization that history, as an academic study, does not exist in a vacuum, nor does it rely solely on its own vices. In contrast, we see that in the interminable quest to find the answer to the question of “what-really-happened-in-the-past” often we rely on things that were not necessarily originally designed to be works of history and people that do not consider themselves historians to provide an accurate picture of life at the time. (Note: looking at the historical qualities of architecture and buildings shows another example of this idea; they can show a lot about a culture, such as lifestyle, artistic sensibilities and social structure)
An additional theme of this course was to be able to help to understand why the world is like it is today; how factors such as the Black Death, the rise and so-called “fall” of Rome, and the evolution of languages have effected the thoughts and actions of current cultures. It also shows that as far different as the various cultures in this area are today, that at one time or another they were very similar to each other. For instance, when we look at the early roots of Christianity and Islam we see that they are very much the same—or at least started out so. This course showed the way that one can take a critical analysis of something like a religion and examine it in historical terms without having to infer anything about the actual ideology behind it; thus making it possible to dissect even your own religion for historical purposes.
Sometimes, however, it is important for a historian to address “the study of the study of history”. Frequently, the major importance of a particular topic of...