a human narrative attempting to enhance the significance of events |
History is the recording of information about events that have been chosen by humans to be significant.
Of the innumerable events that continuously participate in the passage of cosmic change...
falling raindrops, full moons, sunrises, germinating plants, dying kings, shifting continents...
humans select those they deem to be of general interest and devise a means of recording the
essential elements in a manner that will allow a satisfactory reconstruction in the memory of a living individual.
Happenings which have identifiable beginning and end events associated with them, are selected as historical material whenever
they are considered to be suitable, relevant and significant by at least one human.
Wars, reigns, politicians, artists, natural disasters, civilizations, ages, species, eras, etc... all become events
included in a historical record as the inclinations of interest dictate.
Of course, there is a sense in which the universe records its own history... in the chemical composition of the stars and the layered
sequences of geological strata and fossils... but since this is also subject to the interpretation of humans, it is not
unreasonable to suggest that all 'history' consists of events that humans have emphasised by some sort of recording process.
History is a reconstruction based upon simplifications that are imposed upon an infinitely complex sequence of events.
Human activities are inextricably implicated with the infinitely variable chaotic essence of the universe and it is entirely
impossible to document any sequence of events in which they were implicated, without simplifying the complexities down to
comprehensible links of supposed relevance.
Whether viewed thru windows recorded aurally, in stone, tapestry, print, imagery or binary codes,
each historian searches thru the chaos of temporal detritus,
simplifying strands and links to the dead leaves of fallen events.
The historian of a technology selects, traces and links only those events which appear to be implicated in its evolution,
and ignores the greater part of the rest of the universe.
The biographer focusses on the event that is the life of an individual, and excludes any reference to the remainder of
humanity and general existence that appears not to be connected in any significant degree.
The war historian would probably not do much research into the history of palaeontology, music, or gardening.
All history is biased by the simplification process itself, and the preferences of the creator and his/her audience.
Any historian is bound to significantly bias any evidence by emphasizing whatever is chosen to be important, so that
what is deemed to be note-worthy in one version is barely included in another.
One version of a historical record of a period of human history may present it in such a way that the influence of various
religions and rulers were the shaping forces of events.
The same period might be presented to promote the suggestion that politics, technology and climate were the
dominant and formative influences.
Each recorded version of a history is a biased version of selected references so that the aspirations and beliefs of the
present can be justified by its content.
Histories, biographies, and chronologies are all regularly rewritten to remove embarrassing events or to portray the
participants in the fashionable lights of contemporary values and aspirations.
In addition to the simplification process already mentioned, the sources of bias are many and varied.
There is the cultural and social nurturing of the author.
The religious, political, ethnic and sexual
orientation of any individuals will have a not irrelevant influence
on the tone, flavour and perspective of the documentation.
A young historian will not write the same view of an historical event as would a mature counterpart.
The final version of a history is bound to reflect in some manner whether the historian was near or
removed in time and space.
The history of an event created by a participant or observer will inevitably acquire a species of 'first-hand' authenticity
which will always add its own element of believability to the exercise.
The bias of any historical record is also dependant upon the availability of research materials and the
technology of the recording medium.
At one end of the scale, if there are no records then establishing whether an event took place or not is nigh on impossible.
At the other end of the scale, the quantity of data available from the multiplicity of video and audio taken during many public events
... often at ultra high speed and definition... means that increasingly minute details of a historical reconstruction are
Recording a sporting event in slow-motion video...
to make available to future generations the information necessary for them
to decide whether a ball was in or out... is not a possibility that was available to the writers of hieroglyphics.