1. History is not the same science as physics or chemistry
History studies the past of mankind. From a scientific point of view, the main problem is that the events have already happened and will not happen again. A historian cannot conduct an experiment and, for example, reproduce the Battle of Borodino in a test tube.
In addition, the past can be interpreted in different ways. Even the study of written or material evidence will not allow clear conclusions to be drawn. Because of this, assessments of historical events are diametrically opposed.
Doubts may arise, but can history be considered a science at all?
Historians themselves answer this question in the affirmative. After all, despite the many interpretations, experts can establish logical relationships in the events of the past. Although historians do not conduct experiments, researchers use other scientific methods, such as comparative analysis.
So history is science. Inexact, specific, but still science.
2. History is not only stories about rulers and wars
Ever since school, we have become accustomed to the fact that history tells only about global events. For example, about wars, revolutions and important decisions of kings or kings. Descriptions of culture and life are rarely given more than 2-3 paragraphs in a school textbook. And even these short passages are often skipped by teachers as allegedly not so important. True, the true reason is usually the backlog from the program.
In fact, historians have long been studying not only wars or politics, but also the daily life of the people of the past. For example, they describe the occupations and beliefs of a medieval miller. So, he believed that the universe is a huge cheese head. Such heretical beliefs, of course, could not lead to good – the peasant was caught by the inquisitors . And the doctor of historical sciences A. Salnikova tells what New Year’s Christmas decorations were like at different times and what influence the change of eras had on them.
Such studies make history more alive and understandable. After all, any monetary reform can be considered in different ways. Write about “devaluation”, “stabilization of the exchange rate” and “explosive development of industry” or tell how the government’s decision affected the lives of ordinary people. For example, how much has the price of bread risen?
3. Knowing the dates and names of historical figures does not mean knowing history
Many students and their parents consider history lessons to be one of the most boring. Endless dates, the names of princes, kings, kings, emperors, a series of events, cramming and retelling at the blackboard – just listing these things catches a yawn.
The funny thing is that memorization does not help to understand history, and the emphasis of the teacher on cramming, most likely, speaks of his unprofessionalism.
Of course, it’s cool to remember the dates of the Crusades or the names of all the wives of Ivan the Terrible, especially if there is a place to apply this knowledge. For example, in an intellectual TV quiz, when solving crossword puzzles or at a party of medieval historians. Only a bunch of useless dates, names and events does not help to understand what happened and see absolutely incredible relationships.
For example, the crusaders appeared largely due to climate warming. It sounds unexpected, but it’s true: because of the good weather, crops have improved, and people have become less hungry. Life became more fun, and representatives of the nobility gave birth to children. But the land, that is, the main source of income, was inherited only by the eldest son. As a result, hundreds of landless “younger sons” began to roam the continent, who terrorized the lands of their elder brothers, monasteries, and indeed everything in a row. And then the Pope of Rome came up with the idea to redirect the energy of the youth to a charitable cause – the return of Jerusalem.
Dates and names only show the sequence of events, but do not help to find out the reasons for what happened. Therefore, to understand history is, first of all, to be able to find causal relationships between phenomena. By the way, this is also written in manuals for teachers.
4. Evidence from the past is the main tool of the historian, but even they can lie
Contrary to common misconception, historians who conduct research honestly and value their reputation do not rewrite the books of their colleagues. Experts try to draw all the information from the evidence of the era under study – historical sources. Moreover, these will be not only books, but also, for example, language features and mythological plots.
Basically, material (archaeological finds) and written sources are used in research. The latter are valued by historians above all others, but they have one drawback. The authors were biased . Court chroniclers whitewashed their princes and slandered opponents. Generals and politicians exaggerated their own achievements and efforts.
In addition to frank embellishments, there is another problem: the chroniclers often relied on unverified information, and they themselves made mistakes. This, for example, sinned ancient historians Herodotus and Titus Livius. So, Herodotus not only referred to myths like stories about huge fluffy ants , but also got confused in the chronology of the kingdoms of Ancient Egypt. And Titus Livius chose the most “plausible” interpretation of events in his opinion, if he came across different versions in the sources.
Therefore, historians have to meticulously study written sources. For this, external and internal criticism of the document is applied. The first establishes authenticity, period, and authorship, if possible. Specialists study the material of paper, ink, writing style and other indirect signs. The second evaluates the reliability of what is stated in the document: scientists compare what is written with other sources, chronology and already known facts.
5. Knowing about the past helps you better understand the present, not the future.
It is often said that history helps to foresee future events – and this is its main benefit. Say, knowledge of the experience of ancestors will save us from mistakes.
In fact, history is unlikely to be of much use to futurologists : the future is too uncertain, and the past is often assessed differently. Thus, Marxist historians considered the victory of socialism and the death of capitalism to be a natural and inevitable process that was predetermined by the very course of history. Tellingly, they searched for and found evidence of this. And then the Soviet Union collapsed.
In fact, history says much more about the present. She explains how the decisions made by rulers and ordinary people resonate in modern life. This is the great value and the great danger of history. After all, wanting to hide the problems of the present, you can try to rewrite the past, blaming all the mistakes on the predecessors.
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