Podcast: More Creative Historical Thinking

Our conversation about how all history is revisionist and open to creativity with Michael Douma continues this week.

You don’t have a weaker understanding by having an additional explanation, every additional explanation that you have makes the painting come more alive and stronger. That history described and explained from different perspectives is history better understood. And so, a historical pluralist like myself would say there is not one objective story to be told, there’s true stories and false stories based on correspondence theory. But we can look at any event and tell many different stories depending on what it is, that we wanna pull out there what do we wanna highlight what is important to us because history is always written from the perspective of the historian.

https://www.libertarianism.org/podcasts/liberty-chronicles/more-creative-historical-thinking

What Was Lost in Brazil’s Devastating Museum Fire

A series of articles on the fire at the national museum in Brazil. Raises questions about the role of material culture in studying the past but also of the concept of “national memory.” Further, there were recordings of languages that are no longer spoken that were destroyed. Does the loss of a language represent a loss of knowledge? A knowledge system? Fascinating questions raised by this incident that speak to the volume of loss.

The losses are “incalculable to Brazil,” said Michel Temer, the country’s president, on Twitter. “Two hundred years of work, research and knowledge have been lost.”

Marina Silva, a candidate in Brazil’s upcoming elections, described the fire as “a lobotomy in Brazilian memory.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/09/brazil-rio-de-janeiro-museum-fire/569299/

BRAZIL’S MUSEUM FIRE PROVES CULTURAL MEMORY NEEDS A DIGITAL BACKUP

It didn’t have to be this way. All of these artifacts could have been systematically backed up over the years with photographs, scans, audio files. The failure to do so speaks to a vital truth about the limits of technology: Just because the means to do something exists technologically doesn’t mean it will be done. And it underscores that the academic community has not yet fully embraced the importance of archiving importance of archiving—not just in Brazil, but around the world.

https://www.wired.com/story/brazil-museum-fire-digital-archives/

How History Classes Helped Create a ‘Post-Truth’ America The author of Lies My Teacher Told Me discusses how schools’ flawed approach to teaching the country’s past affects its civic health.

Textbooks should admit uncertainty. The very first thing that we teach in U.S.-history courses is when and how people first got to the Americas. The best answer is: We’re not sure. But the darned textbooks don’t say that—except for one of the 18 textbooks I studied intensively. Ironically, it’s the oldest one—it was published way back in the 1970s, and it says something like: The information in this section may be outdated by the time you read it. And by just saying that, it turns out to be the only textbook that is not outdated, even in 2018.

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/08/history-education-post-truth-america/566657/?utm_medium=social&utm_content=edit-promo&utm_campaign=the-atlantic&utm_source=facebook&utm_term=2018-08-02T15%3A43%3A19

Langston Hughes Just Got a Year Older How a random late-night online search led to new discoveries about the poet’s birth and early years.

Recently, a writer’s casual online search for one of his own ancestors accidentally led to a wealth of unknown documentation of Hughes’s early life, including evidence of a different birth year.

Here’s a look at one example of how digitized newspaper databases are throwing open new doors of discovery — and at what difference that year might actually make.

Why Binyamin Netanyahu is fudging east European history

But Mr Netanyahu has a particular interest in keeping the Polish government happy. In recent years he has pursued closer ties with the central and east European members of the European Union in the hope that they will oppose the block’s support for Palestinian statehood and its members’ joint refusal to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He also wants to weaken the EU’s commitment to abide by a deal with Iran to curtail its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Mr Netanyahu has identified the Visegrad Four, consisting of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as his main allies within the EU.

https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2018/07/16/why-binyamin-netanyahu-is-fudging-east-european-history

The sun may never set on British misconceptions about our empire

But then what could our teachers have said? Empire was an uncomfortable subject. By the 1950s, an approach that stressed glorious conquest and the benefits of British rule was no longer tenable, and not only for moral reasons. What had been bloodily won was now being lost, usually peacefully but sometimes not, no matter that we would all be friends in the equitable-sounding Commonwealth. National decline would have been an unhappy theme in the classroom. Rather than this awkward mixture of past and present – one that might intimately involve us – it was safer to concentrate on the sufferings of the Paris commune.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/06/british-misconceptions-empire-guilty-colonialism?CMP=share_btn_fb

How science and First Nations oral tradition are converging

The researchers also found that roughly 175 years ago, the population of Coast Tsimshian in the region declined by as much as 57 per cent. This coincides with colonization and the spread of diseases such as smallpox, the accounts of which have also been passed down in First Nations oral tradition.

“Science is starting to be used to basically corroborate what we’ve been saying all along,” said Barbara Petzelt, an archaeologist with the Metlakatla First Nation, one of the researchers in the study.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/science-first-nations-oral-tradition-converging-1.3853799

The Mapping of Massacres: In Australia, historians and artists have turned to cartography to record the widespread killing of Indigenous people.

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Really interesting article that gets into the importance of history and why we fight over it. In addition, how do we acquire knowledge of the past? In doing this project, the lead historian has to distinguish between the massacres based on the strength of evidence to support their happening. What is also interesting is what kind of evidence was used. Should indigenous oral histories be counted on? Or only traditionally western accounts such as newspapers? This argument plays out in the United States as well.

Lastly, rather than writing a book, the research was presented on a map. Why does the impact of this information feel different when presented visually rather than verbally? What does this tell us about the power of art when learning about history?

“In many Indigenous communities, art works have long had dual functions as historical sources, as repositories of cultural or spiritual knowledge, and as maps of territory. There is an established tradition of mapping massacre sites through art, as in the acclaimed paintings by the Aboriginal artists Rover Thomas, Queenie McKenzie, and Rusty Peters, among others. Watson wanted viewers of her video to be aware that any map is a slippery, contested artifact, and also to have a bodily response to the work. She told me the story of one of her relatives, who, after viewing the video, turned to her in anguish, saying, “Where wasn’t there a massacre?””

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/mapping-massacres

It may be good fun, but it’s not always good history

“Screenwriters interpret historical events to entertain, but to make up facts shows a lack of responsibility”

“Naturally, there are risks to taking in your history alongside your entertainment. There’s only one take on offer and popular historical depictions very much tend to play to the mores of the time. The dark side of Britain’s colonial past has long been papered over in our popular culture. The boundary between popular history and propaganda can sometimes be fuzzy.

“But to what extent is there ever such a thing as “pure” history, anyway? This is a theme eloquently explored by Mantel in this year’s Reith lectures. Confronting pupils with conflicting source material is one of the first lessons of grownup history: there is no one “true” interpretation of events. Historians may engage in an admirable search for the truth, but no historian can claim to present a neutral account: even if they stick to bone-dry facts corroborated by multiple sources, picking which ones to use is in itself interpretation.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/31/it-may-be-good-fun-but-its-not-always-good-history-the-crown