Discuss the Role of Language and Reason in History

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Discuss the role of language and reason in history

History is the study of past events, especially in human affairs, which is based on historical evidence. In history the role of language and reason are what help strengthen the reliability of the sources. Language is the practice of human communication, either spoken or written, integrating the use of words in a structured and conventional way. Written documents are part of historical analysis as is oral tradition. When analysing data or historical sources, reason is used to piece together a “picture” of the event or period. Language and reason are terms that have been the key to uncovering past events.

Throughout history we have had a variety of sources of historical evidence in order to support the past events, both primary and secondary. Primary sources are objects or documents that come from that specific time in history. Secondary sources are sources where someone explains a past event through his/her own opinion and knowledge. For example, a primary source is the Magna Carta, which is the basis of British governing principles. This document was an attempt to limit King John’s powers by law and protect society’s privileges. It is the foundation of constitutional monarchies. A secondary source would be Arnold Toynbee’s “A Study of History”, an interpretation of the rise and fall of western civilization. This summarises primary sources by analysing the causes and effects of events, and draws conclusions based on evidence. The difficulty here is that the historian can be selective with facts and include only those that support his theory. One of the problems of both types of sources is that they can contain bias that can be mis-interpreted.

Language, both written evidence and oral tradition, is one of the most common ways of knowing, and is used in historical analysis. It is, of course, complemented by artefacts. However, language is not only a positive aid in unravelling...
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