Historiography II

A few more thoughts on historiography following yesterday’s post:

 I’ve come to realize that the history of anything, no matter how simple, never has just a single thread – it’s a thickly bundled rope. Any one narrative can only observe a few threads of that rope at once. When you look at one side of the rope, clearly you can’t see the other.  If you were to look at a cross section (a broad slice from a single point in time) you can’t see all the other cross sections, and humans can’t hold every single cross section in their minds at once.

 Basically, so many influences and interplays go into the many intertwined stories giving rise to History (with a capital ‘H’) that no one narrative can fully encapsulate any single one of them. 

 This inability to isolate a historical narrative is what leads to drastically differing narratives even about recent events with agreed upon ‘ hard facts.’ A big example of this that comes to mind is the financial crises of the past few years. Economists and historians can give you many different explanations that fit the data, without altering or disputing any of it.

 Just reading the news emphasizes that lack of consensus is the norm for relatively contained, well-documented historical narratives. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to extrapolate to historical narratives about events that happened hundreds of years ago with buried artifacts and scraps of parchment rather than digital databases as evidence.


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