Historical documents as an unreliable narrator

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Jared Alesi's picture
Yes, it would be a pain in

Yes, it would be a pain in the collective ass. I'm just imagining the discord of librarians cataloguing holy texts without outrage ensuing promptly.

Cognostic's picture
One of the most important

One of the most important characteristics of historical research is corroboration. Corroboration between other known written documents. Primary sources; written at the same time. Secondary sources; things mentioned in other sources unrelated to the primary source.

In addition to these other sciences must also corroborate the sources. Dating methods, archaeology, etc.... If even one of these sources brings into question a primary source, it can not be used sufficiently well to prove a proposition of any kind.

History is also very selective. It is after all only the written documents men have created. History often tells us little or nothing about the common man or common struggles of the time.

History is extremely unreliable and highly subjective to interpretation and newly discovered evidence.

Jared Alesi's picture
Exactly! And that is why I

Exactly! And that is why I claim that historical documentation is unreliable, at least free standing. The true meat of the matter is often uncovered by science, which is an unbiased tool. Of course, scientists may have bias, but historical documentation is pure bias entirely.

Tin-Man's picture
History is most often written

History is most often written by the winners.

Jared Alesi's picture
And that adage was most

And that adage was most likely written by a sore loser.

gigaguy's picture
"the team would surmise that

"the team would surmise that Santa Clause was a historical figure who used alien science known colloquially as magic "

Understanding history is putting hypothesis. There is no true history and most of what you read is just false information.
To understand history you should put information in its context, see the souces, infos about the sources, infos about the era, the people and see finally wether it makes sense or not.
History is like a puzzle where you don't have all the pieces, sometimes with fake pieces but if you search and read rationally you can find the logic of the events and find the truth.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
I wouldn't view it in terms

I wouldn't view it in terms of the scientific method vs. whatever else. Instead look at it in philosophical terms, empiricism vs rationalism. Empiricism covers a lot of ground, and isn't limited to just the scientific method. What the scientific method is, is itself highly variable, and depends on which field of science you're dealing with. They each adjust their methods accordingly.

Things like mathematics falls under rationalism, which isn't based on the scientific method.

Jared Alesi's picture
Exactly. However, when

Exactly. However, when talking about historical accuracy, anyone should be able to come to the conclusion that a book or journal written by a biased source about an event they may not have even attended should be considered illegitimate evidence that said event occurred as they told it, or even at all.

Sapporo's picture
There's a quote that goes "

There's a quote that goes "'It has been said that the spade cannot lie, but it owes this merit in part to the fact that it cannot speak." (Philip Grierson) in regards archaeology vs. history. (I don't actually agree with the sentiment).

Sheldon's picture
JoC "Now, will you accept

JoC "Now, will you accept them as historical documents?"

Which ones, and what evidence from sources other than the bible, and those whose religion is based on it, can you demonstrate that they are historically accurate?

Sushisnake 's picture


"Imagine that civilization as we know it is wiped out, rendering the whole world to be much the same as the Minoans or the Roanoke colony. However, evidence of us still exists, as well as most of our popular culture such as books, movies, and even digitally recorded music."

If that was all they had to work with, they'd be justified in believing we lived in a fair, just world where the good guys always won and the bad guys always lost.


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