Problems of History in The Theory of Knowledge

Critical examination of the Problems of History in the Theory of Knowledge by exploring and discussing the statement, “Every work of history is at least as revealing of the person who wrote it, and of the period in which it was written, as it is

of the events it portrays.”

“Every work of history is at least as revealing of the person who wrote it, and of the period in which it was written, as it is of the events it portrays.” The problem with the past is that there may be more than one version of it. Depending on the cultural background, place it was written, point of view and many other variables may produce different accounts of the same event.

That is when the concept of ‘truth’ is hard to determine. History does not write itself, people must record it and none can do it completely impartially. The emotions one may feel towards an event may well determine the kind of language used in a work of history. Likewise a historian’s reasoning to whether a certain event would benefit or not a county’s image is likely to be criticised, praised or conveniently forgotten.

No historian can be completely unbiased, “The historian must pick and choose and organize in accordance with his insight as to what is significant.”[1] Simply sorting the ‘relevant’ from the ‘irrelevant’ is already defining the importance of certain events. Personal judgement comes into play here along with cultural ideals and beliefs. Furthermore what one historian may consider relevant another may disagree, different countries or parts of the world may completely cast aside a selection of happenings that others would select as an important part of history. For example a great earthquake destroyed most of the capital city of Portugal – Lisbon – in 1755, this would be a very important fact recorded in Portuguese history. However probably be unmentioned elsewhere since it would have had no impact on their environment or society.

Another factor that is a big problem in recording or attempting to record history – as mentioned earlier – are biases and censorships. Certain countries, governments, religions and societies have strict censorship rules that do not allow certain publications that may in some way become prejudicial to teachings, laws, theories, policies, administration, forms of government or its leaders. This may cause certain objectionable sections of history to be either forced into oblivion or at least subdued to modifications as to make it more convenient for future readings and interpretations. Censorship has been used throughout history. Tzar Alexander III – emperor of Russia during 1881 through 1894 – along with his counsellor Pobedonostev introduced very harsh censorship regulations and closed over fourteen newspapers in the first year of his reign. Nothing could be said or even implied against the monarchy under penalty of death. This was at a time of great turmoil during which the Emperor feared to be overthrown or assassinated, as had been his father. Alexander III also censored the teaching curriculum concentrating on religious teachings that asserted the Tzar as sole and rightful leader appointed by God.

More than one report regarding a historical episode are usually formed. They may express their version of what they think may have occurred. For instance, if a country is at war with another historians from both sides will write different accounts, as will those on neither side but who in some way have become involved or affected. Two or more different views of a portion of history may all be equally accurate and yet say completely different things. It all depends on what has been going on around each historian as well as his personal opinions both in selection and beliefs as well as what their notion of the event was. During the Berlin Wall crisis (1960s) communist Berlin was separated from capitalist Berlin by a concrete wall. Whilst the west claimed that Joseph Stalin had set up the wall to impede people from leaving Russia to move to a more promising capitalist, Stalin maintained that it was erected in order to stop unwanted prostitutes, beggars and criminals from entering the USSR.

An additional difficulty that historians may come across are when they are recording history is