Sunday, 17 November 2013

History Masterclass

Today (17th November) I went to a History Masterclass in London ran by the Debate Chamber (  In short, we learned about and discussed the purpose of studying History and different approaches to take when writing about a particular event or leader.  For example, we covered topics such as the similarities and differences between the Marxist and Annales approaches to History, micro-history, how History should be taught in schools, narrative and analysis in History, the problems posed by the postmodernist view, whether or not a historian can ever really discover/ write about ‘the truth’ and the structure agency problem.
I found the idea of postmodernism particularly interesting, that is how History can never be told perfectly because it is impossible to include all the causes of event, how by putting topics in a particular order facts are inexplicitly presented in a way which reflects the historians own views and how the choice of language also affects how an event is reflected.  In this way, can ‘the truth’ ever be told in a fully objective manner? Collingwood discusses how a person’s thoughts led to events and so the only way to completely understand History is to put yourself in great men’s shoes, as it were.  However, will we ever be able to truly understand what Hitler was thinking, for example? One would have had to live in his society- this is impossible as Germany now is hardly comparable to Germany in the 1930s.  Furthermore, we automatically filter everything we learn about through our own experiences (the inclusion of an anecdote featuring an ice-cream van would have a slightly different effect on different people) , therefore even if we tried to put themselves in Hitler’s shoes, every historian would still have slightly different views.  No one answer or ‘truth’ could ever be reached.  But, surely this diversity is not actually a bad thing?
It was a very interactive session which encouraged participants to voice their views on matters and covered ideas and perspectives which I had never even considered before- I thoroughly enjoyed and would definitely recommend it to others. ED. 

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