“Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.”
“Knowledge is Power.”
However political power often ignores expertise that contradicts it’s self portrayal and goals.
Knowledge does not automatically leads to power, and power not necessarily command, attracts, or produce knowledge.
And many prominent scholars have little power of their own, if not helped by powerful Institutions, or organizations.
I meant to add some quotes about History, but desisted, not for a lack of quotes about History, regardless of it, few I would choose, since they tend to be heroic, rather than truthful, the History of Mankind, had being a messy affair of wars, lies, deception, fraud, robbery, pillage, and substitution of truth, for epic lore, to aggrandize and make us believe our ancestors were great, and no scoundrels, who behaved not as honorable men do, but as common criminals.
And then they wrote their deeds as History, not what really happened, but what they wanted for us to believe was true.
Different people wrote diverse stories, then we pick sides, and argue who is right.
History a Complex Matter
You will think History to be a simple straightforward affair, just get the data, arrange it in a chronological order, and just start writing it.
If things will be so easy as that!
At first glance, writing about history can seem like an overwhelming task. History’s subject matter is immense, encompassing all of human affairs in the recorded past — up until the moment, that is, that you started reading this guide. Because no one person can possibly consult all of these records, no work of history can ever pretend to be comprehensive or universal. At the same time, history’s subject matter is partially irretrievable. Barring the invention of time travel, no scholar can experience the past firsthand or recreate its conditions in a laboratory setting. Historians must rely on the fragmentary records that survive from the time period under study, which necessarily reveal just part of the story. For these reasons, the guiding principles behind all historical writing must be selection and interpretation: the thoughtful selection of topics and questions that seem most interesting, and the responsible interpretation of sources in order to construct meaningful arguments. Subjective decisions about what to include, what to exclude, and how to understand it make history writing manageable in the first place. No less importantly, they also make it controversial, because scholars are bound to disagree with the judgments of other scholars. You can think of history writing, then, as an ongoing argument or debate over this unavoidable process of selection and interpretation. Your first challenge as a writer is to find a way to enter this conversation.
And that it’s just a starter, we could rise a hundred more issues!
“Getting history teachers to agree on pretty much anything, is quite difficult. If you ever want to see some ding-dongs between teaching staff, just sit in on a History Department meeting and watch the sparks fly.
I cannot imagine my colleagues from the Maths department slogging it out over Pythagoras’ Theorem or chemists disputing the periodic table. But, historians; yes, historians are hard work. Even when we agree on the evidence, we rarely agree on the evaluation or analysis of it.
Depending on the history teacher you had in front of you, Dunkirk was either a triumph or a humiliation. The British Empire was jolly good or rather awful. King John was a nice chap or a nasty piece of work. And, the First World War was either a total disaster in which millions of decent people were led to their slaughter by an “out of touch elite” or a just war that put an end to the imperialist ambitions of an autocrat and an attempt to stand up for the self-determination of the people of Europe.”
After reading History for years, which by the way it’s mainly the story of conflicts, invasions, wars, and the like, well, I am jaded, and disappointed by so much incomprehension, and taking sides from so many people around the World holding grudges, about what happened hundreds of years ago to their people, or Nations, and carrying hatred for perceived affronts towards people of other nations, who have changed through centuries, and may have little in common with their supposed ancestors.
And of course,
There it is Hollywood!
People still read, but seriously, very little, most mainly learn their History watching movies!
I guess this it’s not news to any of you, who seriously study History, to listen to someone who doesn’t, but commenting about this, or that movie, and how they learnt about a specific place, and moment of history, by watching a Hollywood, or British epic, or wherever the movie was made.
Now, maybe unknown to you, making a movie it’s a total professional business, were even the slightest of details are not left to chance, like using the wrong period lighter, to light a cigarette, or the attire doesn’t match the exact period it means to portray, in other words nothing it’s left to chance, not even the way extras walk in the set, and where they are looking at, in making a movie, many experts on their fields are involved, I used to work in a place where the prop departments of movie studios will come looking for specific items they required to make a movie, stuff that you wouldn’t even notice, in the brief second they would appear in the movie.
However I have to say most film makers, care too much about giving us the ambiance of the period in question, but very little of telling us real History!
They just go along with the script, provided and approved, by whoever created the movie, and it’s responsible for the financial success of the project, that not necessarily reflect the views of the book author, if the movie it’s based in one.
Historians argue about facts, accuracy, reliability, and many other issues, movie directors creates a fantasy to sell, with little regard of Historical accuracy in the tale they make, period.
Recently a fellow blogger complained about how everybody judge Admiral Nelson as a great Historical figure, no doubt, he was, that even a movie of his Lady mistress Lady Hamilton was made, but I dare you to tell me who Blas de Lezo y Olabarrieta was?
Well for that you will have to read History.
“If Blas de Lezo were American, or English, his story would have been told hundreds of times in novels, movies and all kinds of media and formats. It would be a David Crockett or a Nelson. But he was a Spaniard or, rather, half Spanish, because he left so many pieces of his body in battle that he was called ‘Half man’. However, he was a complete hero, without cracks or shrinkage.”
Myths of the Old West
We know about William Henry McCarthy known better as Billy the kid, he was an American cowboy originally born in Manhattan, of all places, who ended up creating a legend by becoming an outlaw after shooting eight people and being shot himself at 21 years of age, or Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp, a US Marshall assistant, of the famous OK Corral gunfight, little known about him was that he was a professional gambler, a brothel keeper, and bar owner, as well as a pimp, and himself on many occasions, not so clearly on the side of law, Wyatt Earp and few other derelicts, seedy, and criminal characters, were able to make a career as outlaws, moving constantly into marginal towns, in the territories, not yet States, away from populated places, where that type of behavior would not be tolerated, and the reason they moved constantly, in search of new prey, and impunity. The safest way was by being officers of the law, when they could take that kind of job, easier on those days, at those places, or just running away when it was necessary!
Cowboys exalted in countless movies, as the spirit of American pioneers, and the legend of the indomitable old West, and the cowboy, a period that lasted no more than 25 years, before the railroad in 1869 took over, and the great cattle drives through the prairies where over, and law, order, and property rights were enforced, from coast to coast, except for isolated, and inhospitable places like Tombstone Arizona, a miner boom town, whose only existence today, it’s to perpetuate the OK Corral gunfight of yore, it was a 30-second shootout between lawmen and members of a loosely organized group of outlaws called the Cowboys that took place at about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, and many claim it wasn’t at all as portrayed in countless movies, some accuse the Earp clan as low class criminals, and the Earp-Clanton differences as the falling-out of partners in crime, and the whole affair at the OK Corral as an ambush of the Earp, against the Clanton gang.
In all honesty, there’s tons of controversy about Wyatt Earp, to put all things clear, however I will go with Western historian and author John Boessenecker who in my opinion goes lightly, and benevolent, on the side of being cautious, and fair, when so much dirt has been wrote about Earp, as when he describes Earp as an “enigmatic figure … He always lived on the outer fringe of respectable society, and his closest companions were gamblers and sporting men … Wyatt never set down roots in any one place; when the money stopped coming in or his problems became too great, he would pull up stakes and move on to the next boom town … For his entire life was a gamble, an effort to make money without working hard for it, to succeed quickly without ever settling in for the long haul.”
He omitted as companions, outlaws, prostitutes, pimps, conman, drunks, and rustlers.
Well, the period in question didn’t last long, the expansion of people Westward, the railroad, and with it law and order, put an end to the Wild West epic period for good, Wyatt Earp himself ending as a Real State salesman in San Diego County, in Southern California, and dying in Los Angeles in 1929, promoting his image to Hollywood.
On The other Hand
Of course, we know almost nothing of the previous 350 years, when the Spanish brought without fanfare, or movies, to depict us, the culture of cattle ranching, and expert horsemanship, that the cowboys learned from the humble vaqueros, mostly half bloods of Indian, and Spaniard, the original cowboys, and extending all through Northern Mexico, and the South West before America took it over in 1848, in the Mexican war, not to talk about the original Indian people, who lived all through America before the arrival of the white settlers, who almost exterminated them, or confined them to reservations, talk about Genocide, and selective memory to do History!
And a force to reckon, were the Mestizo vaqueros, who in California defeated the US Army three times. First lead by Gen José María Flores Californios, (at the time Mexican citizens) retake Los Angeles, Second, defeat and capture of 24 Americans, led by Benjamin D. Wilson, who were hiding in an adobe house in Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, near present-day Chino, California, and the Battle or Rancho Dominguez, Californios, led by José Antonio Carrillo, defeat 203 US Marines led by U.S. Navy Captain William Mervine. Mainly through expert horsemanship, and using long lances, one old brass canon, and a few old muskets.
History is Selective
Well, just recalling a few incidents of History it’s clear that if you want to learn the truth, you cannot be selective, but unfortunately most of History it’s biased, and full of gaps, in actuality it’s more like focusing your attention on a specific place of time, and from a particular point of view, to tell whatever you may find useful to elucidate your main argument, leaving aside what in your judgment may not care to expose.
And I do not care what you may choose to fix your attention, unfortunately most of us, individual humans, we belong to a race, country, are politically inclined, and posses particularly given attributes who define you, possessing a Weltanschauung, a particular Worldview, before we can’t even go into any claim of neutrality to elucidate any argument.
History is Written by the Victors
One of the most unfortunate and widely-accepted ideas about historical thinking is that “history is written by the victors.” This talking point asserts that the truth of the past is not shaped by reasoned interpretive historical scholarship or a factual understanding of the past, but by the might of political and cultural leaders on the “winning” side of history; the “winners” have the power to shape historical narratives through school textbooks, public iconography, movies, and a range of other mediums. To be sure, these mediums are powerful venues for establishing political ideologies and shaping personal assumptions about the way the world works. And it’s definitely true that governmental or “official” entities can and do exploit this power to achieve their own ends. Well to be fair it’s not always the case, there’s exceptions, and of course what we name Revisionist versions, but I would just say that History it’s not a straightforward affair by any means, and even digging deeper, we may never learn the whole truth of it.