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Talk:History

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Great Quote[edit]

History is "an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves and soldiers, mostly fools".

What a great quote! Well done to all responsible for this, it has the makings of a good article. MarcusCicero (talk) 16:02, 29 August 2010 (UTC)

The copyright of The Devil's Dictionary has expired and it's available online in many places. (Example: http://www.thedevilsdictionary.com/) If you haven't read it, I suggest quickly mending that miss.--ZooGuard (talk) 17:29, 29 August 2010 (UTC)

Road signs and history[edit]

If 'in 500 years time' future archaeologicts come across some road signs but no list of what such signs mean, what pseudo-historic woo would be created about them? Some are readily understandable ('car falling off edge into water'; 'road junction [distance]') others are not (No Entry sign).

Likewise political cartoons involving metonyms - those at the time recognise who/what is represented, but later they are meaningless.

This is how some historical mysteries arise. 82.44.143.26 (talk) 18:33, 10 March 2011 (UTC)

Oh God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son"
Abe says, "Man, you must be puttin’ me on"
God say, "No.” Abe say, "What?"
God say, "You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run"
Well Abe says, "Where do you want this killin’ done?"
God says, "Out on Highway 61"
-- Robt. Zimmerman
Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 18:41, 10 March 2011 (UTC)

What does this have to do with my comment?

As an example of future-signpost-woo: the sign meaning 'danger #much# electricity' is interpreted by the Creationists of the time as God attacking a sinner. 82.44.143.26 (talk) 19:22, 10 March 2011 (UTC)

Anyone wishing to develop the idea as an after-dinner game can.

Historical arguments[edit]

As the Richard III article was removed, and as there are 'a number' of long running historical discussions on assorted offbeat topics (that on Richard has been going on for several centuries) could there be a page listing them collectively (as they do not necessarily merit them individuallty) 212.85.6.26 (talk) 17:25, 1 October 2012 (UTC)

This article has much grabage[edit]

I just copy-edited some of it, and removed chunks of crap. While I have an above average knowledge of history as an academic discipline I'm sure there are other editors more competent than I am in this area. And, I have other RW priorities. But somebody(s) really needs to fix this.---Mona- (talk) 00:55, 19 December 2015 (UTC)

"Academic history" reads like random opinions, name dropping and trivia[edit]

When I get the time (and hopefully I have the inclination to do so), I'm probably going to do something about that section. It contains several red links and the content is dubious at best (basically, it seems to be one editor's personal opinion from 2010). For instance, I'd dispute the claim that it's meaningful to talk about one "post-modernist school" and the claim about it being a phenomenon of "recent years" is equally imprecise as various post-modern deconstruction concepts can easily be traced back to such authors as Foucault (who of course drew on even older inspiration), so it's phenomenon which has been around at least since the 1970s. Even worse is the lackadaisical and glib dismissal of this (straw man?) post-modernism by way of a YouTube'esque "this guy totally DEMOLISHED the concept"-reference to an unexplained title by a redlinked author. I'm sadly reminded of the way William Lane Craig trots out a straw man post-modernist view of history to claim that if history is constructed then everything and nothing is true (and then he adds a false dichotomy by contrasting this straw man with another one, an extremely naive von Ranke view, to give his audience the impression that these are the only options when dealing with the evidence for the historical existence of Jesus Christ). ScepticWombat (talk) 12:17, 25 January 2016 (UTC)

Update: While I think the “postmodernism bashing” has been successfully toned down, I’m still not enamoured of the rather smug ending:

In a broader sense, postmodernism proved unworkable as it implicitly condemns any value judgments. The obscuritan nature of this sophistry is wonderfully dissected by Richard J. Evans in his In Defence of History.

The idea that value judgments are essential to history while not that far fetched is also not unassailable (especially given that the criticism of “historical post-modernism”, as least as I’ve heard it, often revolves around it undermining classic source criticism by introducing arbitrary biases, i.e. value judgments, incl. in its selection of sources). We also still get a sweeping and non-specific claim about “X historian has totally demolished post-modernism in Y book” (as an aside, I’ve enjoyed some of Evans’ works and I’m not saying this alleged criticism of postmodernism is entirely invalid, simply that it isn’t presented here, but merely asserted.
Note that this is not to say that I advocate a “hardcore” post-modernist view of history (I would agree that postmodernist ideas have benefited the discipline in terms of a broader sceptical approach to sources, as the article already states, but I’m not very fond of the tendency of some postmodernists to veer too close to the “anything goes” and/or “that’s just your opinion” caricatures). However, neither do I enjoy the far too prevalent “postmodernism bashing” that seems to be in vogue as a way to establish the bashers’ reasonable/rational credentials
Still, while I’m not happy with the ending it’s not so terrible that I can’t live with it, so take this update as more of a “heads up” than a “must fix”. ScepticWombat (talk) 07:58, 27 August 2018 (UTC)

Explanation for revert desired[edit]

The following has been reverted with the statement "Misspelled a word, (uses T.M.I. parenthesis) and Uses strange Choices of Capitalization On words."

Even relatively well record history can be distorted for propaganda purposes. For example Titanic (1943) made a German named Peterson the First Officer of the Titanic when in reality that position was held by a Scotsman named William McMaster Murdoch. The purpose of this change was two fold: to portray Britain as willing to make profit at the cost of human lives and to create a German hero.

First, there are at least four movies named Titanic and having a year tells you which one is being talked about without being clunky about it. Second, Peterson and William McMaster Murdoch are names ergo should be capitalized. The same is true for nationalities like German and Scotsman. Third. the capitalization of "First Officer" is based on the wikipedia article which says his position being "Ship's First Officer" (sic). Finally misspelled words are underlined by a red line when you type the space...no work in the above is underlined. (Compare underlined and underlind, note " underlind" is unlined by a red line while "underlined" isn't).

Wrong words are not "misspelled"; every word in the phrase "their not coming home" is spelled correctly it just happened to be using the wrong world (should be "they're" not "their"); that is a grammar error not a spelling one.

"A more useful comment" - Kirk in "Catspaw"--BruceGrubb (talk) 15:36, 5 January 2017 (UTC)

So... right at the moment I'm about to revert your change. I read your note, as requested, and it does nothing to substantiate the claim vis-a-vis motive for the change. Please, if you want to include it, find a citation that gives some credence to the notion that the casting change was done with the intent of politically rewriting history. ikanreed You probably didn't deserve that 16:11, 5 January 2017 (UTC)
  1. Regarding the spelling of "first officer"; if there's method in the madness, then why do you keep alternating your spelling of it?
  2. Not the reason for reversion, but: please take care with your grammar, as both submissions presented here have apparent flaws — just since we've already had reason to talk about this before.
  3. Regarding the historicity of your addition — a citation is needed. Just add it inside <ref></ref> tags and things will be hunky-dory.
Thanks in advance. All the best, Reverend Black Percy (talk) 16:49, 5 January 2017 (UTC)

Why I prefer to keep the Devil's Dictionary quote in the new and improved lead[edit]

I might be totally off-kilter here, but I really don't see the issue with quoting The Devil's Dictionary as it serves as a tongue in cheek reminder that history is not a simple "solve the equation and get the correct result" kind of discipline. It also illustrates that what constitute "good history" has a tendency to change over time (both in terms of contents, focus and narrative. This is why historiography is so key to the discipline and why I, only half-jokingly, often say that "All history is contemporary history." In case the quote in question has been deleted (again), I'm talking about this one (note that I've cut the ref in this version):

History is an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.
—Ambrose Bierce

Have I totally lost touch with the level of snark/satire allowed/preferred by the mob these days? And no, this is most emphatically not meant as an attack on history as a discipline on my account (apart from being a life long history buff, I also do have an academic degree in history, and no, I'm not mentioning this to credential bully anyone, but to illustrate that I really do care about history as a professional discipline).

That said, I think that the removal of the many "truth" references from the lead was a definite improval. While I sort of agree with what I think was the intention behind the prior version (that it is hard to speak of categorically about truth in history beyond the very basic facts, e.g. that Franz Ferdinand was shot to death in Sarajevo in 1914 by Gavrilo Princip), it came off as confusing and not particularly helpful. ScepticWombat (talk) 22:57, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

@ScepticWombat I know what it is. I also know that our understanding of history, or any other subject, changes over time. That is precisely why I do not approve of keeping it. If it is not serious, why keep it in a serious article? We have fun articles here.
I am perfectly aware that history is more than a collection of facts and figures, much like the subjects that you describe as "solve the equation and get the correct result." However, I would argue that history is a lot like physics and more generally, mathematical modelling, in the sense that you systematically eliminate data in favor of the most essential details. More details can always be included for a more nuanced and complete picture.
As someone interested in history, and again, I do read history for fun, it really gets on my nerve when I see someone describes history is a collection of "unimportant" events and historical figures as "knaves" and "fools". Nerd (talk) 00:11, 27 August 2018 (UTC)
@Nerd I think you misunderstand the quote in both content and intention: As for the intention, I think it is meant seriously, as irony tends to be, but to caricature some bit to highlight a greater “truth” (sorry about the scare quotes here). In terms of the content, it addresses mainly the actors of and instigators of history, not the historians or their trade per se. I read it as a call to not lose sight of the fact that people who make history are often unaware of it (and are almost always in the dark about what kind of history they’re making; the hazards of lacking precognition, I guess...).
Lest historians become too self-important or their readers too blinkered, I think it quite proper for the quote to emphasise the (self-)awareness that history is not in any way like physics, because history is not simply about mathematic modelling (though such elements are indeed important when writing history), but at least as much about interpreting and constructing narratives (i.e. assigning meaning to events, as well as categorising and grouping events with each other). Historiography is not simply an “upwards spiral” or virtuous cycle of ever more accurate models, but a series of interpretations that tells us as least as much about the interpreters as the events they interpreted as they form a cumulative, ever more accurate picture of the past.
Sure, historians have not entirely abandoned such ideas as Leopold von Ranke‘sWikipedia's W.svg classic call to uncover ”wie es eigentlich gewesen” ("how things actually were"), but generally few historians today (at least among those I’ve had the fortune of being taught by or worked alongside) believe that it is actually possible to do this — at least not if this is understood as going beyond the bounds of the aforementioned basic factual level. That there has indeed been plenty of fools (and knaves and kings and soldiers) who have done oodles of things worthy of historical scrutiny is probably not something we’d disagree deeply over (indeed, historian Barbara W. TuchmanWikipedia's W.svg published a book in 1984 entitled The March of Folly: From Troy to VietnamWikipedia's W.svg).
However, look back into past history books, as I’m sure you have, and you will quickly notice that even the quip about “unimportance” is not without merit: What is construed as “important” has indeed changed over time, though this, just as the circumscription/tempering of Von Rankian notions of the capability of historians to accurately reproduce the past, does not mean that anything goes. Indeed, one very legitimate criticism of Bierce’s quote is that it is arguably a more accurate lampooning of history as it was written in his day (late 19th/early 20th century) than in ours (though the “history as kings and soldiers” approach has hardly vanished altogether — and for good reason).
But to get back to the original topic: Being a serious RW article does not, I think, necessarily preclude the use of illustrative irony, satire or similar rhetorical devices. This is one of the differences between RW and Wikipedia —as long as it doesn’t get out of hand, of course (otherwise, the article would indeed belong in funspace or on Uncyclopedia). ScepticWombat (talk) 00:57, 27 August 2018 (UTC)

David Starkey[edit]

As he 'merits' several mentions on RW does he deserve a page of his own - or should there be a 'List of historians worth mentioning on RW and why (excessive nationalism, not even wrong-ism etc).

Apropos his latest comments on Richard III: the monarch was 'a man of his time' operating in a complex situation and he is not as bad as his near contemporaries Vlad Dracula and Cesare Borgia. Anna Livia (talk) 16:03, 2 October 2019 (UTC)