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1.1 The Art and Science of History
Students often think of history as a simple listing of events, names and dates.However, an understanding of such events also requires knowing something of boththe motivations influencing the people who made those events happen, and of methods by which the end results were achieved. In particular, the history of everysociety is intertwined on the one hand with its technological development, and onthe other with the moral and ethical principles upon which the society is built. Thisbook is concerned with all three concepts (history, technology, and ethics) and therelationships among them.One goal of the study of history is attempting to look ahead as well as back,for by understanding the past and present one gains keys to the future. Forinstance, even though the technology that will influence the society of the future isvery different from that which shaped historical events, there is still much to belearned by examining the past. It is possible to see how societies have alreadyresponded to (or developed from) radical technological changes, and thus tosuggest how current trends might shape the future. To assist in this, a brief examination of the nature of historical studies is in order.
There is a flow to history and culture. This flow is rooted in and has its wellspring in thethoughts of people. People are unique in the inner life of the mind--what they are in their thought world determines how they act. This is true of their value systems and it is true of their creativity, true of their corporate actions, such as political decisions, and it is true of their personal lives. The results of their thought flow through their fingers or from their tongues into the external world. This is true of Michelangelo's chisel, and it is true of thedictator's sword.
--the late Francis Schaeffer in
How Should We Then Live
What Does a Historian Do?
A historian is more than simply a collector of facts about the past or present.In some ways, the "doing of history" is not unlike that of science, for in bothdisciplines it is well understood that a collection of data, however vast, does notbecome useful information until it is organized and interpreted. Like a courtroom judge who must sift through often conflicting eyewitness reports to discover thetruth of events, the historian must reconcile accounts of the events under study thatare often in sharp disagreement. There are various reasons for the contradictions that arise even betweeneyewitness accounts of the same event. For instance, suppose two people standing