Essay on The Historian and the Search for Truth

3748 Words Jan 30th, 2012 15 Pages
The historian and the search for truth
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. History, in its broadest sense, is the totality of all past events, although a more realistic definition would limit it to the known past. Of all the fields of serious study and literary effort, history may be the hardest to define precisely, because the attempt to uncover past events and formulate an intelligible account of them necessarily involves the use and influence of many auxiliary disciplines and literary forms. The concern
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Of course we must take all descriptions and narratives with a grain (and sometimes a whole shaker) of salt; but by careful study of many different works, a general picture of the times will become clear.
Archaeological evidence is another important tool, and our best source for discovering what life was really like in the past. The study of something so apparently mundane as a garbage dump can tell us volumes about the people who used it, such as what foods were popular and what materials were common and considered "disposable." Skeletal remains -- when examined across a spectrum of samples -- can tell us the general health of the people in question and their average height. Dendrochronological examination can date the construction of a house; dated coins found in a particular building can give a general idea of when that building was used. And, of course, artifacts such as mugs, plates and cutlery, jewelry, clothing and shoes, and other household items can tell us a great deal about how people lived.
The most important tool a historian must use is his mind. Historians not only need to question the evidence he sees but use his judgment, deductive reasoning, and imaginations in forming sensible conclusions. The truth about our past will always remain an incomplete puzzle, and our picture of that puzzle is constantly changing as new evidence is discovered and new theories…

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