The Truth In History We are all taught essentially the same things in school. We learn of the presidents and what they did and when they did it. But we know, as adults, that we did not get all the facts or even a portion of the correct facts in regards to history. In the essay, “The Historian and His Facts,” Edward Hallett Carr shares a bit of insight into the people who record history and write about it. We are given a deeper understanding of historians and just what it is they do and what they know. By doing so Carr gives the reader an opportunity to question much of the history that we are exposed to and taught.
The historian Barbara Tuchman says that the most common question asked of historians by the public is whether history serves a purpose and whether we can learn from the lessons of history (Tuchman 608). Carr approaches the subject of history from an educated and clear standpoint. He makes the reader think about all the history that has been read while growing up (Carr 595). Carr, whether directly or indirectly, points out that so much of the history we receive is prejudiced by the historians (594). Another issue that the essay brought to mind and examined was the issue of the historians themselves (Carr 596).
They also have many different preferences and prejudices. Some of those prejudices and points of view are very influential and very set. Historians have their own ideas of how great or wondrous a person or event was in history and therefore they will easily influence their accounts of the information provided to them. The historians themselves must be as unbiased and unprejudiced as they can be in order to give an accurate account of the information and present it to the student and researcher of history in a truthful manner. Tuchman argues against learning from history in a pragmatic sense (604). This approach would treat historical research as a technical process. Tuchman does not see history as sources of magazines, newspapers, and memoirs, but views them as raw materials.
She argues that human beings are always and finally the subject of history. She defines history as “the past events of which we have knowledge and refrain from worrying about those of which we have none” (Tuchman 605). Tuchman believes that history is the record of human behavior, the most fascinating subject of all (607). She also believes that the main role of historians is to stay within the evidence. Only so many people can record any event in history and only a portion of these recordings are likely to be seen. We can probably rely on the dates and times of events, but those particulars are not necessarily what make up the meat of history.
It is the people, the circumstance, and the events that make up history and teach us who we are and were we, as a people, have come from. The common people have always been an important part of history and without the recording of their information much of history is lost. Even people who all attend the same event will give different accounts of the occurrences, so how can we expect the historians to be completely infallible? We can’t. It is the bias of historians that has kept us from learning of important facts throughout history. And when we do learn of the facts they differ from the next dramatically at times.
Carr does an excellent job in addressing these issues whether directly or by inference. Tuchman also makes some valid remarks regarding the role and purpose of historian. In the end, the question is did we get all of the facts regarding history, or was it just the historians opinion of the events? History.