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The Objectivity Of History Essay

1323 words - 6 pages

The Objectivity of History

The issues that are raised in this source by Marc Trachtenberg are is whether or not objectivity is still a relevant idea, and if it is not then is history in fact dying. Keith Jenkins' "What is History?," Carl Becker's "What are Historical Facts?" and Richard Evans' "In Defence of History" will be used to discuss and examine these issues.
Marc Trachtenberg is questioning if objectivity is possible and desirable in today's society, and this is a question that many historians have pondered. Keith Jenkins and Richard Evans are the two historians that will be used in relation to this debate. Trachtenberg believes that history should be ultimately obtainable ...view middle of the document...

Jenkins was a post modernist historian and his context is important in why he thought they way he did. The post modernist movement was one that believed that historical objectivity was an oxymoron and that history was more of an entertainment than an arm of academic study. The post modernism movement was established after the confusion of the World Wars. This explains why their notions on history because scientific history had been the prevailing idea in history until this occurred. However, after the world wars people like Keith Jenkins had seen historians who were supposedly unbiased rush to justify their country and demonize the enemy and thus destroying the current ideas of historical objectivity. Jenkins believes that history has no real relevance to the society of the day because he believes "That past, appropriated by historians, is never the past itself..." This is in direct conflict with Marc Trachtenberg, as he believes that history is in fact of "profound importance to society at large" and thus believes that objectivity has to be the ultimate goal of historians.
Richard Evans agrees with Trachtenberg's idea that history is important to society and that objectivity is obtainable in his article "In Defence of History." In this article he is trying to rebut the claims of post-modernists including Keith Jenkins' claims that his is insignificant and objectivity is a farce. He says that "The truth about patterns and linkages of facts in history is in the end discovered not invented, found not made..." Evans believes like Allan Bullock that if historians realize that he may have prejudices and then takes steps to counterbalance these then the history he or she writes will be historical accurate. He also believes that if a historian is open to other people's points of view then there should be no reason why objectivity would not occur. However, Evans does not believe that objectivity should be taken to the level in which it lacks imagination and character, as the past was a colorful and interesting time. In the last paragraph of this article Evans shows us how passionately he believes this, "I will look humbly at the past and say despite it them all: it really happened, and we really can... find out how it happened..." Evans view seems to be shaped by a more traditional view of history. This makes him similar to Marc Trachtenberg who also appears to value the older styles of history. This would of course influence their notions of objectivity, as throughout the history of history, scientific history has been the prevailing movement. Evans shows us this by dedicating most of his article to a history of historian's views on scientific methods. Trachtenberg by declaring he preferred "diplomatic" history to "feminist studies," one traditional and the other a distinctly modern phenomenon.
The second issue in need of discussion is the...

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