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Schools of Historical Interpretation

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Brad Fitzenreiter

on 11 May 2015

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Transcript of Schools of Historical Interpretation

Schools of Historical Interpretation
In this presentation I will be discussing the many schools of historical interpretation, as well as the principles of historiography
Empirical Scientific Approaches
This school of historical interpretation relies on primary sources & document analysis
Focuses on narratives of political history events
Believes that complete account of the past is achievable
Professionalization of the study of history
History of Empirical Scientific Approach
Leopold van Ranke founded the school of empiric or aka Rankian History in the 19th century. He is considered the "father of the objective of writing history". The schools of empiricists focused heavily on the importance of politics and notable figures, viewing history as a scientific discipline.

Ranke believed historians should ignore sources like personal memoirs ans texts written after events, and that they should focus solely on primary sources. His nationalism also influenced his viewpoint, coming from the same background as a Lutheran protestant and believing that the idea of history was the working of God's will. Overall, Ranke saw the past as a process that led up to the present during his writings, the same time in which nations of Europe were overwhelmed with nationalism.

Influenced by scientific approaches
Influenced by social/structure approaches
Focuses on competition between classes
Historical materialism
Inclination towards determinism
Marxism in Depth
Marxism heavily focuses on materialism, and within this school it focuses on three major acts/principles. The first historical act is the production of the means to satisfy or please the needs(habitation,clothing,etc) and the production of material life itself. Secondly, the action of satisfying leads to new needs, and this production of needs is the first historical act. Thirdly, humans tend to propagate their kind who daily remake their life.

The Marxist study of history looks at the material conditions in which historical struggles are fought, and then identifies subjects who make history. These 'subjects' are not focused only on the prominent individuals whose actions aim for the consciousness of the masses, but focuses on the three principles(as listed previously). These "subjects of history are self-conscious masses of people, whose ideas and aims are inherited from the past and given voices in new form of individual leaders"[1].
Influenced social/structural approaches
Generations of challenging traditional military political history by examining institutions and networks instead of individual human beings
Studied economic and social developments for all humans over extended periods of time
Sources and interpretations are subject to bias
The Annales School of Thinking
The Annales school is one of the most notable methods of researching within the field of history. Named after the scholarly journal "Annals of economic and social history", a collection of articles edited by Mark Bloch and Lucien Febvre in 1929, who were also the first generation to find the Annales school. This school of thought was intended to promote a new approach to history by ignoring the typical study of history and instead focus more on social and economic history.

The Annales movement focused less on politics and people and instead primarily relied on social groupings, collective mindsets and long-term continuities and changes. Most importantly, those involved in the Annales school of thought do not rely on primary sources, but instead make use of other sources such as maps, folklore and literature.
Cultural History
Emphasis on the language and rhetoric employed by ordinary people as well by elites
Connections with psychohistory and literary studies
Techniques applied to all life activities; anything is worthy of historical study
Self-conscious awareness of the historian's own underlying assumptions
What is Cultural History?
Cultural history is best characterized as "an approach which considers the domain of representation and the struggle over meaning as the most fruitful areas for the pursuit"[2]. The concept of historical culture expresses a new way of understanding the effective and affective relationship that a human group has with the past. The purpose of historical culture is to advocate the examination of every single piece of social historical consciousness. In a sense, if culture is the way in which a society or group interprets, communicates and transforms reality, historical culture is the specific way in which that society or group relates to it's own past.
Diverse responses to structuralism
Emphasis on language but without the assumption that an underlying structure exists
Deconstructuion of texts led to post colonial and gender perspectives
Related to post modernism
What is poststructuralism?
Poststructuralism is a school of historical interpretation that focuses on the slippage in our systems of meaning as a way to identify the ethical choices that we make. It concentrates on the moment when we impose meaning ina space that is no longer characterized by a shared social agreement over the structure of meaning. In a sense, it attempts to explain how it comes about that we fill those gaps in our knowledge and come to hold as true what we do believe, and at what cost to society. By identifying points of slippage, poststructuralism clears the table and makes plain the significant role of ethical choice, in which is the decision making that is guided by beliefs about virtue and the self, not by moral or political factors.
What is Historiography?
Historiography means 'writing history' and the term can be used in three ways.
First it can mean the principles and methods of writing history. In reconstructing a past event, historians must choose what can and cannot be known, which people and which events were most important, which in return produces which effects. Historians must also decide how to structure their writing such as discussing certain themes(church history, economic history, political history, etc).
It can also mean the study of historical writing. When a historian reads a textbook about history, it is useful to them to read it historiographically. For example, they might ask 'what are the author's premises and target audience?
It may also mean principles for evaluating historical sources. Like how reliable is the document? What was the editor's purpose in making this document?
Primary sources
A primary source is significant evidence made by a participant, subject or observer of an event. Primary sources may take many forms, some of which are more reliable than others. For example, a reporter's dispatch in the heart of a revolution versus an impassioned painter. Primary sources closest to the events, and usually considered very reliable, take the shape of artifacts, photos, audio, videos and other media which allow for less bias than others.
Secondary sources
A secondary source is a historical work that interprets or looks at historical events without having any connection to that event, but that largely bases itself off primary sources. The best example of a secondary source is an Encyclopedia, which aims to be an objective summation of primary sources, while the dedicate historian also makes secondary sources for the purpose of enabling easier composition of primary source material.
Tertiary Sources
The third sources known to historians, the tertiary source, relies mainly on secondary or on other tertiary sources, to tell their story of history. Popular and powerful opinionated histories commmonly take this form. These forms of history are the farthest removed from evidence of the events they talk about, and make up the most common forms of history.
Storytelling as interpretation
In the current day, many people retrieve historical information from movies. By investing an effort to "read" a movie it can help us define history
sounded and engaging historical writing tells a story
historical writing requires the selection of evidence
historical writing is analytical and grounded within evidence
there is never an absolute interpretation for any event
Artifacts as interpretation
Artifacts are without a doubt part of history and if we know how to look at them, they can be sources for better understanding our own history. While textbooks focus on the important documents of the past, or vital events that occurred, artifacts can show us a different kind of history. Artifacts in a sense are the touchstones that bring memories and meanings to life. They make history real and is a reality that can and should be seen from different perspectives. Museums may choose not to enshrine and isolate an artifact, but instead open it up to new interpretations and various points of view, they provide opportunities to challenge and enhance our understandings of the past. There are five ways to think about artifacts in history:
Artifacts tell their own stories
Artifacts connect people
Artifacts mean many things
Artifacts capture moments
Artifacts reflect changes
The Profession of History
History is the ongoing process where people try to find and understand the past and its meanings. as humans, "we all interpret and narrate the past, which is to say that we all participate in making history"[3]. In order to distinguish a professional historian from everyone else, we must look at membership. Membership is able to identify a community of historians who are collectively engaged in investigating and interpreting the past as a mater of disciplined practice. there are five keys that define the profession of history:
sharing values for assessing research
developing and evaluating interpretations
communicating new knowledge
navigating ethical dilemma
Telling stories about the past
Plagiarism is essentially copying another author's work, and the presentation of it as one's own, constitutes plagiarism and is a serious violation of the ethics of scholarship within the field of historiography. the penalty for plagiarism is the abhorrence of the community of scholars.

Plagiarism thus takes many forms, The most obvious abuse is the use of another's language without quotation marks and citation. other subtle abuses among plagiarism include the appropriation of concepts, data or notes all disguised in newly crafted sentences or references to a borrowed work. Borrowing unexamined primary source references from a secondary work without citations is also an abuse. In order to avoid plagiarism is to always be explicit, thorough and generous in acknowledging one's intellectual debts.
Principles within Historiography
Within historiography, there are three fundamental principles that govern historical research. These three principles are (1)criticism, (2)analogy and (3)causality.
(1) Criticism states that no ancient document should be accepted without requisite judiciousness. This principle indicates that all-truth claims must be evaluated by established historical methods. Modern day historians should realize that empirical data is filtered through human cognition which participates of finitude.
(2)Analogy incorporates that past events must be similar to contemporary occurrences: what happened in the past must reflect that which occurs in the present. This principle thus assumes that nature is basically uniform.
(3) Casualty entails that all events have a sufficient reason that accounts for their existence. If all causes are immanent, then no causes is transcendent in relation to historical events.
Gender History
Gender history is a field within history and gender studies, which examines the past from perspectives of gender. In many ways it is an outgrowth of women's history. This discipline considers in which ways historical events and periodization impact women differently from men.
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