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by: Darius Donnelly


Darius Donnelly
GPA 3.76

Scott Hunziker

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Scott Hunziker
Class Notes
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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by Darius Donnelly on Sunday October 25, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to HIST 151 at University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill taught by Scott Hunziker in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 42 views. For similar materials see /class/228820/hist-151-university-of-north-carolina-chapel-hill in History at University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.


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Date Created: 10/25/15
A Sense oinstory Some Components by Gerald W Schlabach All students who graduate from a liberal arts college should take with them an indelible awareness of the following 1 Some things happened before other things Studying history is much more than the memorization of dates But if we get things out of chronological order we39ll inevitably get a lot of other things wrong too Imagine that we are in a new city trying to nd quot408 N 5th Stquot but vandals have taken down the signs for 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th and 8th streets and rearranged them in random order We ll probably fail Neither can we expect to succeed in the study of history if we think Socrates was Aristotle s student and they both argued with St Paul when the Christian apostle preached in Athens 2 Some things only happened in certain places Athens is in Greece of course It may be nearer to Jerusalem than some people think but the two cities are on different sides of the Mediterranean Sea In other words geography is as basic to the study of history as is chronology Time and space are the most basic units of historical study because they are the most basic units of historical existence We must respect them both For a human being to exist in a quotplacequot however also means to exist in a particular community society and culture When the thirdcentury Christian apologist Tertullian asked quotWhat has Athens to do with Jerusalemquot he was not denying that there were routes for travelling between the two He was not talking about geography He was insisting that Greek philosophy and Christian theology grew out of very different cultures or worldviews He may have been wrong to exaggerate their differences but he was right to expect differences To expect and recognize cultural differences is also to exercise a sense ofquotplacequot 3 Meanings and definitions of words change Let s say we read the word quotvirtuequot in an English translation of a text that the Christian thinker Tertullian wrote 200 years after the birth of Jesus Later we read the word quotvirtuequot in an English translation of a text that the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote 350 years before the birth of Jesus Should we assume they mean the same thing No If nothing else we must should remember that Tertullian wrote in Latin whereas Aristotle wrote in Greek So we can t assume that the words behind the English translation meant exactly the same thing If you are studying a foreign language while in college you should already know this If you aren39t studying a foreign language why aren39t you More importantly words get their meanings from the times places and cultures in which people use those words Remember points 1 and 2 Aristotle was both re ecting and deliberately changing the meaning of quotvirtuequot that he had learned from other Greeks such as the ancient poet Homer Tertullian and other early Christians had rejected some of the Greek virtues entirely and modi ed the meaning of others So there is no way to understand the meaning of words except to read them in context noting how they are used associating them with related words learning as much historical background as possible and so on Lesson there are no short cuts to reading and reading carefully We reluctantly allow ourselves a huge short cut when we use English translations What more can we ask Hint unless you really want to aggravate your professors never begin a history paper with Webster s de nition of quotvirtuequot or any other word 4 Where there is no record there is no history Professional historians get as frustrated as their students over this one Sure stuff happened before human beings started leaving artifacts and writing things down And sure a lot more stuff happened afterwards that nonetheless left no trace So we39d like to know more We39d like to fill in the gaps But we can39t draw conclusions where we don t have evidence Sometimes we can make educated guesses and speculate but we dare not pass our speculations off as facts So students shouldn39t try either Show your professors your evidence 5 Texts that powerful educated people have written are not the only kind of record however Writing is an absolutely wonderful invention We know infinitely more about other times and places because people have left textual records And we know those people more intimately because they wrote down their thoughts Texts are virtual miracles The survival of many ancient texts against terrible odds might really be miraculous though see point 7 below Still texts suffer from one huge problem During most of human history only a few people have known how to read and write Even when the literacy rate has increased only a few people have enjoyed the luxury to systematically record their thoughts The textual record marvelous as it is therefore suffers a bias toward elites of almost every time and place Fortunately other human artifacts count as records too chards of pottery coins and tools preserved grains unearthed shacks layers of city layouts buried as one civilization built over the ruins of the last paintings on walls of caves and catacombs jewelry and children s toys stories passed down orally for many generations before being written down To understand the lives of common folks historians can also piece together clues from mundane forms of writing that no one thought of as literature tax records law codes bills and inventory lists ships logs baptismal records advertisements for slave auctions letters of scared and lonely soldiers By studying all these historians can correct somewhat for the bias of people rich educated and powerful enough to have imagined themselves quotmaking historyquot 6 History is almost always complex A Events have multiple causes B Societies involve a mix of good and bad C Changes depend on continuity Therefore conflicting explanations of historical events and developments are almost always possible Why are you in college If you are thoughtful you can probably list ve or six reasons So why did the Roman Empire fall Don39t expect any one reason to suffice We39re talking about a 500yearplus empire here It had incorporated many cultures depended on a vast network of trade tried to defend many borders and recently switched religions sort of Expect a cluster of reasons Expect scholars to argue over which reasons were more important Expect complexity This is the human condition after all complex A mixture of good and bad A mixture of creativity and stupidity A mixture of generosity and greed Heroic actions and good intentions in the service of dubious causes Just causes defended through violence and other dubious means To study history is to learn to distinguish between shades of grey Come to think of it when did Rome fall Did it ever really fall Something changed in Western Europe between 400 CE and 600 CE But much continued History involves both change and continuity Expect to find both 7 God may indeed intervene in human history but this is hard to document and historians require footnotes Sorry but to suggest the ways that God may be involved in human history is to move into theology or philosophy of history Those are different from the documentary study of history To be sure all study of human history should raise larger questions of meaning Philosophy literature art and religion take up where historical study leaves off and enjoys greater freedom to answer the question of what it all means But good historians bind themselves to the historical record Until they can provide footnotes referring to the pages of a heavenly scroll they refrain from making claims about what God has done in history Besides scrolls have columns not pages All students who expect to make the most of their liberal arts education sh onld also be able to explain statements such as th e following 8 To attempt to live without a memory is to attempt to lose one39s humanity I said it is your job to explain this statement But okay I ll help you get started Without a memory would you recognize your family recognize your house know how to say your prayers or know why you have stopped praying learn from your mistakes know which friends to embrace stay in love when you fall in love Be the person you are Now how is all of this true for entire families neighborhoods societies nations civilizations The answer is the reason we study history 9 Our memories fail us however and so we must continually work to recover and test our collective memory Now that you know how important history is you may also start to understand why families neighborhoods societies nations and civilizations tend to twist distort or conveniently forget parts of their histories A lot may be at stake Violence oppression injustice racism sexism and other unsavory patterns of human behavior may have allowed us to enjoy the lives we now live The unvamished truth may painfully force us to choose between becoming different people or repressing our humanity But do we really want to live out lies If not we have no choice but to test argue and challenge one another s memories in the hope of remembering and living more truthfully 10 Historical study has at least as much to do with interpreting the past as with gathering quotthe facts quot By now you re wondering How are we supposed to get the facts right Historians must have lots of difkrent interpretations Hey You re catching on Don39t despair Good historians always seek to interpret the past not just gather quotthe factsquot and they know it Good historians work to acknowledge their own locations in history too They are quotcoming fromquot somewhere Even while letting history cast light on their own quotsomewherequot their own perspective or worldview they are letting their own quotsomewherequot cast light on history Think of it as a good conversation which continually moves back and forth but hopefully moves forward So how do you decide which interpretation of history to trust Get in on the conversation Let the study of history help you recognize selfcritically your own location your values your convictions your faith as well as your privileges Then become a good conversationalist By turns listen respectfully and by turns argue persuasively Be open to testing and changing your own perspective yet also be prepared to argue well You can do both at once if you are drawing both on a rich worldview that need not fear the truth of others and on a competent familiarity with the best available historical evidence All interpretations are not created equal Some are more cogent than others Some have more evidence in their favor Some are false and some are lies Even though history is more than a bunch of facts evidence still counts for a lot So how do we know So how do we interpret We converse well and we keep conversing And we approach even if we never fully attain the truth


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