AIOU Course Code 5676-2 Solved Assignment Autumn 2021

Q.1   significance of the discipline of History among the social sciences.               

The concept of history plays a fundamental role in human thought. It invokes notions of human agency, change, the role of material circumstances in human affairs, and the putative meaning of historical events. It raises the possibility of “learning from history.” And it suggests the possibility of better understanding ourselves in the present, by understanding the forces, choices, and circumstances that brought us to our current situation. It is therefore unsurprising that philosophers have sometimes turned their attention to efforts to examine history itself and the nature of historical knowledge. These reflections can be grouped together into a body of work called “philosophy of history.” This work is heterogeneous, comprising analyses and arguments of idealists, positivists, logicians, theologians, and others, and moving back and forth over the divides between European and Anglo-American philosophy, and between hermeneutics and positivism.

Given the plurality of voices within the “philosophy of history,” it is impossible to give one definition of the field that suits all these approaches. In fact, it is misleading to imagine that we refer to a single philosophical tradition when we invoke the phrase, “philosophy of history,” because the strands of research characterized here rarely engage in dialogue with each other. Still, we can usefully think of philosophers’ writings about history as clustering around several large questions, involving metaphysics, hermeneutics, epistemology, and historicism: (1) What does history consist of—individual actions, social structures, periods and regions, civilizations, large causal processes, divine intervention? (2) Does history as a whole have meaning, structure, or direction, beyond the individual events and actions that make it up? (3) What is involved in our knowing, representing, and explaining history? (4) To what extent is human history constitutive of the human present. First, historians are interested in providing conceptualizations and factual descriptions of events and circumstances in the past. This effort is an answer to questions like these: “What happened? What was it like? What were some of the circumstances and happenings that took place during this period in the past?” Sometimes this means simply reconstructing a complicated story from scattered historical sources—for example, in constructing a narrative of the Spanish Civil War or attempting to sort out the series of events that culminated in the Detroit race riot / uprising of 1967. But sometimes it means engaging in substantial conceptual work in order to arrive at a vocabulary in terms of which to characterize “what happened.” Concerning the disorders of 1967 in Detroit: was this a riot or an uprising? How did participants and contemporaries think about it?

Second, historians often want to answer “why” questions: “Why did this event occur? What were the conditions and forces that brought it about?” This body of questions invites the historian to provide an explanation of the event or pattern he or she describes: the rise of fascism in Spain, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the great global financial crisis of 2008. And providing an explanation requires, most basically, an account of the causal mechanisms, background circumstances, and human choices that brought the outcome about. We explain an historical outcome when we identify the social causes, forces, and actions that brought it about, or made it more likely.

Third, and related to the previous point, historians are sometimes interested in answering a “how” question: “How did this outcome come to pass? What were the processes through which the outcome occurred?” How did the Prussian Army succeed in defeating the superior French Army in 1870? How did Truman manage to defeat Dewey in the 1948 US election? Here the pragmatic interest of the historian’s account derives from the antecedent unlikelihood of the event in question: how was this outcome possible? This too is an explanation; but it is an answer to a “how possible” question rather than a “why necessary” question.

Fourth, often historians are interested in piecing together the human meanings and intentions that underlie a given complex series of historical actions. They want to help the reader make sense of the historical events and actions, in terms of the thoughts, motives, and states of mind of the participants. For example: Why did Napoleon III carelessly provoke Prussia into war in 1870? Why has the Burmese junta dictatorship been so intransigent in its treatment of democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi? Why did northern cities in the United States develop such profound patterns of racial segregation after World War II? Answers to questions like these require interpretation of actions, meanings, and intentions—of individual actors and of cultures that characterize whole populations. This aspect of historical thinking is “hermeneutic,” interpretive, and ethnographic.

And, of course, the historian faces an even more basic intellectual task: that of discovering and making sense of the archival information that exists about a given event or time in the past. Historical data do not speak for themselves; archives are incomplete, ambiguous, contradictory, and confusing. The historian needs to interpret individual pieces of evidence; and he or she needs to be able to somehow fit the mass of evidence into a coherent and truthful story. So complex events like the Spanish Civil War present the historian with an ocean of historical traces in repositories and archives all over the world; these collections sometimes reflect specific efforts at concealment by the powerful (for example, Franco’s efforts to conceal all evidence of mass killings of Republicans after the end of fighting); and the historian’s task is to find ways of using this body of evidence to discern some of the truth about the past.

In short, historians conceptualize, describe, contextualize, explain, and interpret events and circumstances of the past. They sketch out ways of representing the complex activities and events of the past; they explain and interpret significant outcomes; and they base their findings on evidence in the present that bears upon facts about the past. Their accounts need to be grounded on the evidence of the available historical record; and their explanations and interpretations require that the historian arrive at hypotheses about social causes and cultural meanings. Historians can turn to the best available theories in the social and behavioral sciences to arrive at theories about causal mechanisms and human behavior; so historical statements depend ultimately upon factual inquiry and theoretical reasoning. Ultimately, the historian’s task is to shed light on the what, why, and how of the past, based on inferences from the evidence of the present.

Two preliminary issues are relevant to almost all discussions of history and the philosophy of history. These are issues having to do with the constitution of history and the levels at which we choose to characterize historical events and processes. The first issue concerns the relationship between actors and causes in history: is history a sequence of causal relations, or is it the outcome of an interlocking series of human actions? The second issue concerns the question of scale of historical processes in space and time: how should historians seek to reconcile micro-, meso-, and macro-perspectives on history? Both issues can be illustrated in the history of France. Should we imagine that twentieth-century France is the end result of a number of major causes in its past—the collapse of the Roman order in the territory, the military successes of Charlemagne, the occurrence of the French Revolution, and defeat in the Franco-Prussian War? Or should we acknowledge that France at any point in time was the object of action and contest among individuals, groups, and organizations, and that the interplay of strategic actors is a more fertile way of thinking about French history than the idea of a series of causal events? Scale is equally controversial. Should we think of France as a single comprehensive region, or as the agglomeration of separate regions and cultures with their own historical dynamics (Alsace, Brittany, Burgundy)? Further, is it useful to consider the long expanse of human activity in the territory of what is now France, or are historians better advised to focus their attention on shorter periods of time? The following two sections will briefly consider these issues.

An important problem for the philosophy of history is how to conceptualize “history” itself. Is history largely of interest because of the objective causal relations that exist among historical events and structures like the absolutist state or the Roman Empire? Or is history an agglomeration of the actions and mental frameworks of myriad individuals, high and low?

Historians often pose questions like these: “What were some of the causes of the fall of Rome?”, “what were the causes of the rise of fascism?”, or “what were the causes of the Industrial Revolution?”. But what if the reality of history is significantly different from what is implied by this approach? What if the causes of some very large and significant historical events are themselves small, granular, gradual, and cumulative? What if there is no satisfyingly simple and high-level answer to the question, why did Rome fall? What if, instead, the best we can do in some of these cases is to identify a swarm of independent, small-scale processes and contingencies that eventually produced the large outcome of interest?

More radically, it is worth considering whether this way of thinking about history as a series of causes and effects is even remotely suited to its subject matter. What if we think that the language of static causes does not work particularly well in the context of history? What if we take seriously the idea that history is the result of the actions and thoughts of vast numbers of actors, so history is a flow of action and knowledge rather than a sequence of causes and effects? What if we believe that there is an overwhelming amount of contingency and path dependency in history? Do these alternative conceptions of history suggest that we need to ask different questions about large historical changes?

Here is an alternative way of thinking of history: we might focus on history as a set of social conditions and processes that constrain and propel actions, rather than as a discrete set of causes and effects. We might couch historical explanations in terms of how individual actors (low and high) acted in the context of these conditions; and we might interpret the large outcomes as no more than the aggregation of these countless actors and their actions. Such an approach would help to inoculate us against the error of reification of historical structures, periods, or forces, in favor of a more disaggregated conception of multiple actors and shifting conditions of action.

This orientation brings along with it the importance of analyzing closely the social and natural environment in which actors frame their choices. Our account of the flow of human action eventuating in historical change unavoidably needs to take into account the institutional and situational environment in which these actions take place. Part of the topography of a period of historical change is the ensemble of institutions that exist more or less stably in the period: property relations, political institutions, family structures, and educational practices, religious and moral values. So historical explanations need to be sophisticated in their treatment of institutions and practices. This approach gives a basis for judging that such-and-so circumstance “caused” a given historical change; but it also provides an understanding of the way in which this kind of historical cause is embodied and conveyed—through the actions and thoughts of individuals in response to given natural and social circumstances.

Social circumstances can be both inhibiting and enabling; they constitute the environment within which individuals plan and act. It is an important circumstance that a given period in time possesses a fund of scientific and technical knowledge, a set of social relationships of power, and a level of material productivity. It is also an important circumstance that knowledge is limited; that coercion exists; and that resources for action are limited. Within these opportunities and limitations, individuals, from leaders to ordinary people, make out their lives and ambitions through action.

What all of this suggests is an alternative way of thinking about history that has a different structure from the idea of history as a stream of causes and effects, structures and events. This approach might be called “actor-centered history”: we explain an epoch when we have an account of what people thought and believed; what they wanted; and what social and environmental conditions framed their choices. It is a view of history that gives close attention to states of knowledge, ideology, and agency, as well as institutions, organizations, and structures, and that gives less priority to the framework of cause and effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q.3

This academic cross-over has good prerequisites to serve as a source of theory, and ways of making thicker and more solid interpretations. Almost every time archaeologists deal with archaeology from historical times, there are references to historical data and written sources. In this session we want to discuss the meeting between archaeology and history and its implications for both theory-building and the everyday practice and craft, and the special role of Historical Archaeology in this enterprise.

The relationship between history and archaeology seems in practice however still to be rather problematic. More than 15 years ago, Anders Andrén initiated a discussion of what he called the historic-archaeological dialogue, and suggested correspondence, association and contrast as theoretical concepts for analyzing the construction of this context. Ten years later, in a special feature issue of the International Journal of Historical Archaeology, the contributors are still obsessed with questions like how to cross “the Great Divide”.

The relationship between history and archaeology has since long been rather unequal and one-directed.  Historical data has been used within archaeological frames, but the contrary has until now been scarce. Today, however, new directions in history seem to take a material turn, and we notice tendencies in spatializing historical data.  Lately, academic reforms have made possible multi-institutional organization, facilitating the dialogue between different historical disciplines (e.g. history, archaeology, classical archaeology). Recently, there are interesting efforts on different levels institutionalizing cooperations between archaeologists and historians, with inspiration not least from theories on both sides of the Atlantic.

In our session, we would like to welcome contributions discussing the historic-archaeological dialogue, both from a theoretical point of view and/or on a more empirical basis. The main focus on the session is the tensions between history and archaeology, both theoretical as well as practical reasons, and how the meeting of the disciplines may influence results and perspectives in both disciplines. We would also welcome papers on how archaeology, when in dialogue with written sources, may generate theories and contributions relevant to culture history in a broader sense.

Archaeological and historical sources, i.e. material culture and written texts, form the basis of the discipline Historical Archaeology. This academic cross-over has good prerequisites to serve as a source of theory, and ways of making thicker and more solid interpretations. Almost every time archaeologists deal with archaeology from historical times, there are references to historical data and written sources. In this session we want to discuss the meeting between archaeology and history and its implications for both theory-building and the everyday practice and craft, and the special role of Historical Archaeology in this enterprise.

The relationship between history and archaeology seems in practice however still to be rather problematic. More than 15 years ago, Anders Andrén initiated a discussion of what he called the historic-archaeological dialogue, and suggested correspondence, association and contrast as theoretical concepts for analyzing the construction of this context. Ten years later, in a special feature issue of the International Journal of Historical Archaeology, the contributors are still obsessed with questions like how to cross “the Great Divide”.

The relationship between history and archaeology has since long been rather unequal and one-directed.  Historical data has been used within archaeological frames, but the contrary has until now been scarce. Today, however, new directions in history seem to take a material turn, and we notice tendencies in spatializing historical data.  Lately, academic reforms have made possible multi-institutional organization, facilitating the dialogue between different historical disciplines (e.g. history, archaeology, classical archaeology). Recently, there are interesting efforts on different levels institutionalizing cooperations between archaeologists and historians, with inspiration not least from theories on both sides of the Atlantic.

In our session, we would like to welcome contributions discussing the historic-archaeological dialogue, both from a theoretical point of view and/or on a more empirical basis. The main focus on the session is the tensions between history and archaeology, both theoretical as well as practical reasons, and how the meeting of the disciplines may influence results and perspectives in both disciplines. We would also welcome papers on how archaeology, when in dialogue with written sources, may generate theories and contributions relevant to culture history in a broader sense.

Economic Historians often have access to written sources wherever money has been in circulation. That is not the case for the Swedish realm 995-1030 that kept up a minting of an impressive magnitude that has left no remnants at all in written records. Preserved coins (with some short inscriptions in Latin) and stamps, as well as morphological data are our only source. That goes also for the following period 1030-1153 when the kingdom did not mint at all – an even more difficult conundrum to solve. Not until we are well into the thirteenth century we do have written evidence of coins. By applying Institutional Economic Theory as a toll in the interpretations of what happened during the minting lacuna, the Swedish policy seems to have been characterized by general market hostility. The more fragile our source material is, the greater the need for well-founded theor.     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q.5

Secondary sources are available both online and in the library. To locate published secondary source materials in Randall Library, use the UNCW Library Catalog. You can start with a keyword search for your topic (e.g. “civil rights movement”), which will retrieve secondary sources as well as secondary. From there, drill down to focus on secondary sources by:

  1. Clicking on a relevant record, such as this book.
  2. Scrolling down to the section labeled “Subject” and clicking on a relevant subject term. Subject terms are “controlled vocabulary” terms that classify all items in the library catalog to make it easier to find things on those topics. In this example, you can click on the subject “Civil rights movements — United States — History — 20th Century.”
  3. After you’ve done that, you’ll see a list of subject terms in alphabetical order. Use the search box and add words onto the end of the subject term that signify secondary sources. Sourcesis always a good places to start, but you can also try words such as correspondence or diaries. Since the list is in alphabetical order, you can also scroll through to find subject terms that sound like they’d relate to secondary sources.
  4. So, in this example, you would add ” — Sources” onto the end of the existing subject term – “Civil rights movements — United States — History — 20th Century — Sources” – and search for that. If you click on the resulting term, you will see a list of all items in Randall Library that have been given that classification – including, for example, this book entitled Eyes on the Prize that probably contains a number of useful secondary sources for this topic.​

There are obstacles that make it so we do not have a crystal clear, uninterrupted view of the past. Firstly, we have to remember that everyone – not just us, but also people throughout history – is shaped by their upbringing and the societies and times they live in, and we need to be careful not to stick our own labels and values onto past periods. Secondly, our view of the past is made up from the total of things that somehow happened to survive the test of time, which is due to coincidences and decisions made by people before our time. So, we only get a fragmentary, distorted view; it is like trying to complete a puzzle with a lot of oddly shaped and missing pieces.

Sources are our way of peering into the past, but the various kinds all present their own benefits and difficulties. The first distinction to make is between secondary and secondary sources. A secondary source is first-hand material that stems (roughly) from the time period that one wants to examine, whereas a secondary source is an additional step removed from that period – a ‘second-hand’ work that is the result of reconstructing and interpreting the past using the secondary material, such as textbooks, articles, and, of course, websites such as this one.

However cool actual sources from times gone by may be, we cannot simply assume that everything they tell us (or everything we think they tell us) is true, or that we are automatically able to interpret their contents and context correctly. They were made by people, from within their own contexts. Keeping a critical eye and asking questions is thus the way to go, and it is a good idea to cross-examine different sources on the same topic to see whether any kind of consensus rolls out.

Some general questions you should ask of any type of source are:

  • What type of source is it? What does its form tell us? Is it a neatly engraved inscription, an undecorated, heavily used bit of earthenware, or a roughly scribbled letter on cheap paper?
  • Who created the source? How did they gather the necessary information? Were they an eyewitness, or did they rely on researching other sources or on the stories of people who had witnessed the event? Could they be biased?
  • With which goal was the source created? Did the creator want to tell a truthful story or, for instance, influence others through propaganda? How reliable does that make it?
  • What is the context in which the source was created? To understand a source it helps to know something about the society and immediate context in which it was made. A Christian source written while Christianity was still a persecuted religion differs from one after Christianity was made the official religion. Compare it with other sources from the same period/that concern the same subject to help you assess how reliable the source may be and help you interpret its content.
  • What is the content of the source and how do we interpret it? What does it tell us and what does it not tell us? What are its limitations? What sorts of questions could this source answer?

Different sources bring different benefits and pitfalls with them, though; these will be discussed in more detail below.

Written sources

Some examples of secondary written sources are contemporary letters, eyewitness accounts, official documents, political declarations and decrees, administrative texts, and histories and biographies written in the period that is to be studied.

Benefits – details; personal side; context

The unmatched level of detail presented by written sources in general is an obvious goldmine to the greedy historian. Moreover, reading a written source tends to tell you something about the author and the context in which they are writing just as well as the topic they concern themselves with.

Studying bones yields clues regarding health, gender, age, size, diet, etc. Retrieval of ancient DNA – though not exactly a walk in the park – is also possible. The context in which bones are found as well as the point in time they came from help to fill information regarding their societies. This is already valuable in support of historical sources, as, for instance, mass graves of victims of the black death support the image created by the written record, but for the prehistoric side of things, bones are truly indispensable in helping us fill in the blanks.

For places such as Australia, we have no written sources until westerners came brutally barging in in 1788 CE. Here, bones can alert us to the prehistoric human presence in specific areas. For instance, through tracing bones found at sites such as Malakunanja 2 in Australia’s Northern Territory, dated to around 53,000 years old, and the famous Lake Mungo burials in southern Australia dated to around 41,000 years old, we can fill in Australia’s initial colonisation.

In the study of history as an academic discipline, a secondary source (also called an original source) is an artifact, document, diary, manuscriptautobiography, recording, or any other source of information that was created at the time under study. It serves as an original source of information about the topic. Similar definitions can be used in library science, and other areas of scholarship, although different fields have somewhat different definitions. In journalism, a secondary source can be a person with direct knowledge of a situation, or a document written by such a person. Secondary sources are distinguished from secondary sources, which cite, comment on, or build upon secondary sources. Generally, accounts written after the fact with the benefit (and possible distortions) of hindsight are secondary A secondary source may also be a secondary source depending on how it is used. For example, a memoir would be considered a secondary source in research concerning its author or about his or her friends characterized within it, but the same memoir would be a secondary source if it were used to examine the culture in which its author lived. “Secondary” and “secondary” should be understood as relative terms, with sources categorized according to specific historical contexts and what is being studied. A study of cultural history could include fictional sources such as novels or plays. In a broader sense secondary sources also include artifacts like photographs, newsreels, coins, paintings or buildings created at the time. Historians may also take archaeological artifacts and oral reports and interviews into consideration. Written sources may be divided into three types.[9]

  • Narrativesources or literary sources tell a story or message. They are not limited to fictional sources (which can be sources of information for contemporary attitudes) but include diaries, films, biographies, leading philosophical works and scientific works.
  • Diplomatic sources include chartersand other legal documents which usually follow a set format.
  • Social documents are records created by organizations, such as registers of births and tax records.

In historiography, when the study of history is subject to historical scrutiny, a secondary source becomes a secondary source. For a biography of a historian, that historian’s publications would be secondary sources. Documentary films can be considered a secondary source or secondary source, depending on how much the filmmaker modifies the original sources.[10]

The Lafayette College Library, provides a synopsis of secondary sources in several areas of study:

“The definition of a secondary source varies depending upon the academic discipline and the context in which it is used.

  • In the humanities, a secondary source could be defined as something that was created either during the time period being studied or afterward by individuals reflecting on their involvement in the events of that time.
  • In the social sciences, the definition of a secondary source would be expanded to include numerical data that has been gathered to analyze relationships between people, events, and their environment.
  • In the natural sciences, a secondary source could be defined as a report of original findings or ideas. These sources often appear in the form of research articles with sections on methods and results

History as an academic discipline is based on secondary sources, as evaluated by the community of scholars, who report their findings in books, articles and papers. Arthur Marwick says “Secondary sources are absolutely fundamental to history.”[12] Ideally, a historian will use all available secondary sources that were created by the people involved at the time being studied. In practice some sources have been destroyed, while others are not available for research. Perhaps the only eyewitness reports of an event may be memoirs, autobiographies, or oral interviews taken years later. Sometimes the only evidence relating to an event or person in the distant past was written or copied decades or centuries later. Manuscripts that are sources for classical texts can be copies of documents, or fragments of copies of documents. This is a common problem in classical studies, where sometimes only a summary of a book or letter has survived. Potential difficulties with secondary sources have the result that history is usually taught in schools using secondary sources. Historians studying the modern period with the intention of publishing an academic article prefer to go back to available secondary sources and to seek new (in other words, forgotten or lost) ones. Secondary sources, whether accurate or not, offer new input into historical questions and most modern history revolves around heavy use of archives and special collections for the purpose of finding useful secondary sources. A work on history is not likely to be taken seriously as scholarship if it only cites secondary sources, as it does not indicate that original research has been done.

 

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