History is about learning about the past, acquiring knowledge and information to validate facts. Historians will analyse and examine a sequence of historical sources ranging from artefacts, films, and oral interviews. Such sources may serve as some sort of historical evidence to historians, but it’s thus important for them to consider the validity and authenticity of their sources. Evaluating sources and documents is the main priority this paper will be clarifying, and thus discuss the method and types of approaches historians can employ to scrutinize their materials.
Students of history undertake research in order to examine past events. According to Marius & Page (2005: 8) historical research is done through a collection of primary and secondary sources, these are the tools and processes that are used the process of research. Primary sources are original sources in a sense that they have never been altered or distorted (Marius & Page 2005: 8). Historians will use primary sources created by people involved, who were there during such time of the event, for example oral interviews.
Problems historians encounter with primary and secondary sources is the validity of its materials. Tosh (2000: 38) further states that, even primary sources are not immune to distortion; some are inaccurate based on hearsay and misleading. Therefore it is up to historians to pay much attention to their sources. This paper as a result states two types of approaches historians can use to evaluate sources.
Firstly, the first approach is testing the authenticity of a document, also known as external criticism. External criticism refers to how valid and trustworthy a source can be (Johnson & Christensen 2004: 419). Such criticism raises questions like whether a document can be traced back to its original producer. Does the content of the document give facts which can be supported by other primary sources? (Tosh 2000: 58). First hand materials in this case will be...
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