GDG- Killing Lincoln

cameron2 at cameron2 at
Mon Jan 16 10:49:55 CST 2012

<<  Sorry but that's absolutely false. Unlike in mathematics, historians 
don't measure historical fact and it is not black and white. They deal 
with historical _evidence_. And as any historian will tell you, 
evidence (even that which is accepted as "common knowledge") is often wrong.

The art (and it is an art, not a science) of being an historian is in 
learning and applying standards for collecting, interpreting, and 
evaluating evidence. Standards differ, of course, which is why we get 
dozens of books on the same subject, each containing the conclusions of 
a particular author. (You don't see the same thing regarding the 
multiplication tables).  >>

We're all informed by another member that "Good history is a record of events."  But as you've correctly explained, good history is much more than that.  It's the carefull and intelligently expressed evaluation of evidence.  
I'm currently reading David Stevenson's "With Our Backs to the Wall", which deals with the question of why a war a long and bitterly fought as WW1 ended, considering the extent of the German collapse in 1918, not with Allied armies marching into Berlin, but with an Armistice.  The "tactical" part of the book, on the German Spring offensives and the Allied and American counter-offensives which led up to the Armistice, comprises not more than about the first 1/4 of the book.  The rest is a detailed exploration of why what happened on the battlefield ended up with the war ending the way it did.  This involves all the underlying and interdependent factors of manpower allocation, production, finance, shipping, politics, labor relations, raw materials, railroad utilization, food supply, war aims, and concerns over post-war economic and political status.  Including, how this would position them for the next war, which many were already thinging forward to.
This part of the book is replete with "facts" and events.  Coal production, agricultural output, lumber harvests, shell production, shipping tonnage, railcar and locomotive availability, infrastructure, political parties, labor unions, strikes, female employment, propaganda output, use of nitrates for munitions as opposed to fertilizer, rationing, the list goes on.  Charts abound.  Yet all the "facts" and charts, devoid of the author's evaluation and discussion, would probably render down to a pamphlet about 10 or 15 pages long.  The book consists of about 550 pages of text.
The facts and events are merely the raw data for the historian's interpretation and evaluation.  
Jim Cameron

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