Can the past be known as it really was

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Last updated: November 4, 2019

History is the study of events in the past, but since it is based on perception and is being rewritten constantly, a certain bias will always exist. Whether this alters a person’s perception of the history or not, it would be at least slightly different than another source that would be discussing the same event. This could be as a result of how the certain event affected them or how they were involved, or simply their personal views toward the subject causing them to exaggerate a certain point.However, by gaining information from different sources, one is able to gain knowledge of the basic event, however, one must read several sources to discern the bias that each source presents. Moreover, there will always be altered views and perceptions to history and because of this, history is flawed in that it can never be known as it was. In order for the past to be known as it really was, the outside and inside history must be known.

The outside history, which deals with events that “can be perceived by the senses” (Mr.Ward) varies with the inside history, the thoughts and feelings of the people involved in the event, which brings about the difficulties of telling the past as it was because in order to know the inside history, the author must know the thoughts and feelings of any other person and there reason or reasons for feeling the way they do. In addition, history depends on first hand accounts and varying interpretations could arise from this account.To know the past as it really was would not only require the ability to understand completely another human being, but would also call for the capability to see an event from all sides, that is, to know every action and reaction and where and when they took place. This first hand account also has bias to it and so does every interpretation thereafter. Depending on how that first hand account affected the person, his bias and perception towards that event varies.

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Also the time between when the event occurred and when the account was told plays a major role. For example, a man who describes WW1 now is not as credible as one who described the event when it first occurred. One character trait that all humans have is to have a certain bias towards a subject. Whether that bias alters the viewpoints of the person reading the source or not, all history is told in one type of bias, small or large.

That is why history is being rewritten constantly-not simply because new facts are discovered, but because it is always written wrong. The past is in a steady process of imaginative reinterpretation and reconstruction: we want it to be meaningful to us in the present” (Rueben Abel). Historians often times choose a topic which they are particularly attached to and therefore form a certain bias on their opinion. As a result of these problems the past can never be known as it was because bias and perception provide differing accounts no matter how large.

Even an event that occurred where the whole world was watching, such as the September 11th attacks, if each person was interviewed, a slightly different perception of the even would be presented. In regard to bias, a Democrat might have a totally different opinion on a matter than a Republican. For example, one might see President Bush’s decision to go to war as a necessity for security whereas another might emphasize the economic crisis that our country is in now. Once again bias and perception take their toll and make it impossible for history to be known as it really was.

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