Before embarking on the study of history, having some discussion about what history is can be useful. To most people, the definition of history is simple – it is what happened in the past. But, it is really not that simple.
Consider these quotations about history:
History is the lie commonly agreed upon. (Voltaire) Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past. (George Orwell) Historians rely heavily on the accounts of eyewitnesses in order to draw conclusions about the past. Ask any police officer about eyewitness accounts, and you will quickly discover how three people seeing the same event will see three different things. Like Columbus, the police officer’s eyewitnesses are subject to biases, self-importance, or a desire to manipulate perceptions.
So, the job of a historian (and a history student) is to wade through biases and find some meaning in what is being said in the primary sources. For this discussion, you are asked to consider the process and meaning of history. That is, can history provide us with what might be considered a “truth” about the past? If history is an interpretation of the past, can the past be changed? Can we completely trust those who give us accounts of their experiences, and what are the implications of that for our understanding of the past? And finally, is history more about the present or the past?
Your initial post should be an in-depth response that addresses all the questions and issues involved.