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Blame: Job of Historians, or Not?

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I am not a historian. I have recently begun studying history in a very informal way. I have not studied under a professional historian as one would if one took a university course. I read the works of others who are professionals. Sometimes reading about the same events as presented by different historians is instructive. One quickly learns that each historian brings his or her own perspective to understanding the event or events. Often that perspective is, consciously or sub-consciously, political. For example, I find that many Irish writers discussing the famine that afflicted Ireland between 1845 and 1852 seem to approach it from a politically left leaning viewpoint. This comes across in their condemnation of landlords and the overt market economics being pursued by the British government at the time.

Finn Dwyer is a frequent podcaster and blogger about Irish history having covered the Black Death in a recent series which became a book. I frequently share his posts via Twitter and my author page on Facebook.  He is, like me, currently working on a book about the famine. In this blog post, published on his site today, he discusses the role of historians in apportioning blame. He does so in the context of the weekend’s revelations about infant deaths in mother and baby homes that were hidden from the public eye by means of burial without ceremony in mass graves.

My own view is that if we confine ourselves merely to establishing the facts, without attempting to understand the reasons why they happened, we have little chance of preventing their repetition at some point in the future. That may mean blaming circumstance and faulty thought processes rather than individuals or institutions. It is, after all, the thought processes that need to be challenged. And alarms can be sounded if we should ever see a similar set of circumstances appear.

Finn’s post is here: http://irishhistorypodcast.ie/tuam-will-historians-help-or-hinder/

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2 Comments

  1. Sha'Tara says:

    I used to enjoy reading history. Then I learned what “history is written from the vantage point of the victor” really means and history became something I needed to question at every chapter. Who wrote it? If it was British Empire history written from Britain and it was part of the official school/university curriculum, well that said much already. I’ve also read much French history, being French, only to discover from another country’s perspective how much of what I was taught as “history” was pure propaganda. So obviously all that “history” wasn’t history at all. So, if we’re going to talk about writing history it should be a scientific/mathematical approach: Just the facts, ma’am. Later twists can by put upon that history, but those “twisters” wouldn’t be considered historians proper. Analysts?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. franklparker says:

    I think, Sha’tara that it was you who said that children should be taught to question everything. Maybe it was someone else. They are wise words. And that is what the best teachers do. Especially in advanced studies. I am sure ours was not the first generation that recognised as we matured that there are alternative ways of looking at the world.
    About the only thing I have that was my father’s is an RAF service issue bible in the front of which he wrote ‘To my son, in the hope that he will seek the truth in these pages and never give up the search.’ I long ago stopped believing the truth was to be found in that book, but I have never given up the search, looking in many other places. Latterly I have been trying to find ways of helping others to discover the truth by writing about the world and its history as I see it. Which undertaking, I recognise, is what you too are engaged in.

    Like

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