"Every work of history is at least as revealing of the person who wrote it, and of the period in which it was written, as it is of the events it portrays."

Essay by gui_mHigh School, 12th grade November 2004

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History, or accepted facts about the past, used to be considered a natural science of "how it really was" , thus a historical fact was equal to the fact of a natural science. However, scientific facts are independent of the scientist and modern historians have discarded Ranke's1 view. Some historical facts have a similar nature to that of scientific facts. The year in which Brazil was discovered or the name of Soviet Communist leader in 1940 can be considered independent of the historian. However, history is more than just these simple facts; it includes "the interpretation of these facts, the processing of them into a narrative with causes and effects" . This interpretation can be as valid for recounting the past, as it is valid for telling us about the writer and the period in which it was written.

"Study the historian before you begin to study the facts" .

The main complication of history is identifying what is fact and what is an interpretation derived from those facts. It's common belief that Hitler was responsible for the death of six million Jews, but is there indubitable evidence that an investigation was conducted and proved the death of all six million, or was this derived from a historian who made this judgment based on facts or evidence such as the concentration camps, journal entries and accounts of survivors? In the case that this is an interpretation of a historian, it may be distrusted if we find a reason for bias in the historian, which in this extreme example is not the case. Usually, this isn't problematic as most historians should always thoroughly analyze the accuracy of their sources and might even apply Plato's tests for justified true belief for certainty; a three-question test that historians should ask themselves before accepting...