Historian Facts

Topics: History, Historian, FACT Pages: 2 (620 words) Published: October 16, 2014
In the first chapter of "The Historian and his Facts," Edward Carr laid out the question of what defines history and the role of facts in writing history. Carr laid out the opposition viewpoint that facts speak for themselves and that it lay out directly how history should be written. Carr compares the writings of Acton and Sir George Clark. Acton, who wrote in the later Victorian age, wrote with a sense of awe and admiration towards history, while Sir George Clark seemed merely bewildered by history. By comparing these two writings, Carr came to this: "our answer, consciously or unconsciously, reflects our own position in time, and forms part of our answer to the broader question what view we take of the society in which we live." According to Carr, a historian cannot chain himself to the unbearable burden of absolute factuality any more than he can just write stories because they interest him. A novel is no more true history than is an encyclopedia- both contains facts, possibly historical, but neither is truly history. Carr suggests that Lytton Strachey’s concept of necessary ignorance is perhaps the simplest method of sorting the facts. Strachey believed that ignorance allows a historian to select, omit, and simplify the body of facts that would become a history. However, the point is made: the historian must interpret the facts, rather than just list them. Carr stated that historical facts are the same for all historians and serve as the backbone of history. It is the duty of the individual historians to provide an accurate interpretation but there lies a contradiction - there is no such thing as accurate interpretation when one is talking of history. Historians must formulate an answer to all of their facts, but these answers are often clouded by the historians' society and upbringing. Carr depicts history as the interaction between a historian and their facts. He explains that because historians decide what historical events...
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