In day to day conversation, casual historical facts are often brought up. Little thought is actually given in our repetition of these historical facts as to what actually led up to their happening, and how they became so well known in the first place. In the article “What are historical facts?” by Carl L. Becker, he inquires as to what is actually meant when we talk about “facts” in history. To aid his inquiry, he asks 3 simple questions pertaining to the subject: “What is the historical fact? Where is the historical fact? When is the historical fact?” Throughout the article he continues to expand on these questions and how there is much more than meet the eye to our everyday perception of history.
Becker’s first question, “What is the historical fact?”, actually brings up the interesting notion that the seemingly simple facts we know of history, like Caesar crossing the Rubicon, had many more facts that led to their happening. The multitude of facts that led to its happening, according to Becker, is why the main fact is so memorable. It not only represents Caesar crossing the Rubicon, but the work of all the men and women that helped him do it. The author also says that the historian cannot directly deal with the event, since it is in the past, and instead has to deal with what has been said about the event. I agree with Becker’s statement, and I feel that some of our most notable events serve as auditory memorials that remind us of not only the event, but the work of those who came before to make that event possible. An example that comes to mind is Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, which represents all the work put in to the civil rights movement before the speech, and the hope for a brighter future beyond it.
The second question, “Where is the historical fact?”, is given a straightforward answer by Becker, that it is within our mind. Becker differentiates between the historical event, which happened in the past and will...
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