Problems of History as an Academic Discipline

Topics: History, Social sciences, Humanities Pages: 14 (4886 words) Published: June 12, 2013

The problem historian faces overtime in the writing of history (whether contemporary or ancient history) has been a very great challenge to the study of history itself. As a result of all the issues that arose base on the challenges students faced when conducting historical research, different scholars have decided to write about the problem or challenges history is facing as an academic discipline. When viewed from one side one can conclude that history cannot be regarded as an academic discipline, this can be said when one start considering the likes of myth, legends, moonlight stories (alo) among others. Then on the other side one can also conclude that history cannot be separated or studied without being an academic discipline, this has to do with a student purposely in school to study the past and also has to embark on historical research. But this paper will only limit itself to history as an academic discipline which is very important to our discourse. Some scholars have criticized and condemned the study of history or history as an academic discipline, for instance the likes of Elton who condemned the study of history to a low level intellectual activity that encourages mere regurgitation of names, dates, places and events. Elton states, “The future is dark, the present burdensome. Only the past, dead and buried, bears contemplation.”[1] In one of Jane Austen’s novels, a character called Catherine Morland said of the discipline, “I often think it odd that it should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be invention.”[2] Henry Ford uttered one of the most demeaning remarks about the discipline when he said, “I don't know much about history, and I wouldn’t give a nickel for all the history in the world. History is more or less bunk. It is tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history we make today.”[3] Some even viewed history as dead, dusty and buried, while others have dismissed history as all relativist.[4] These among many others are the critics of history as an academic discipline. But can we say that all these said concerning the study of history are true, or is the study of the past really dull and dark, or does the discipline has nothing to do with the world and life of men, or is history itself a fallacy/friction? It is in the light of all these questions raised that this paper will be looking at the study of history with its dynamics, which includes the concept of history, concept of history as an academic discipline, problems and challenges of history as an academic discipline and where the paper stands which is the conclusion. It must be noted that all the widespread criticism of the study of history including those mentioned above would be considered a part to the challenges of the study of the discipline itself which would be discussed in the process of this study. WHAT IS HISTORY ?

History is the memory of human group experience, if it is forgotten or ignored, we cease in that measure to be human. Without history we have no knowledge of who we are and how we came to be, like victims of collective amnesia groping in the dark for our identity. It is the event recorded in history that have generated all the emotions, the values, the ideas, that make life meaningful; that have given men something to live for, struggle over, die for. Historical event have created all the basic human groupings-countries, religions, classes and all to loyalties that attach to these.[5] The definition or conceptualization of history has been worked on overtime by different scholar, including the likes of Carr, who define it as an unending dialogue between the past and the present.[6] Marwick also define history as the interpretation of the past, one in which serious effort has been made to filter out myth and fable.[7] Osuntokun sees history as the collective memory of the past of a people but not necessarily the absolute remembrance of what...
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