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Knight: Whose History is it Anyway?

Written By Editor on 12/26/14 | 12/26/14

History is a polarizing subject. Either you find it fascinating or you find yourself fast asleep because of it, but regardless of what affect it has on you, its importance can nonetheless be accepted by all as not only a record of the past, but a guide to the future. 

However, the question becomes, whose history is it anyway? 

Now, I'm sure many are confused by the premise of the question, so hear me out on this. 

Historians and teachers tend to engage the past in black and white contrasts: ignoring the culture of the time and substituting our own values in place of them, which at face value may seen acceptable, but in reality cheats the whole learning process out in the end. 

Why is it cheating the learning process out? Well, I'm glad you asked. By substituting our own values in place of historical context, we're taking the conditions that lead to the creation of the history were studying out of the equation rather than understanding them. 

This is a serious problem because the truth of the past gets lost through historical fog. We're casting judgment on the actions of historical events and figures based on twenty-first century morals and values, which has the effect of taking history out of history. 

Take for example the American Civil War. There are three sides to viewing this great national conflict within the United States. There is the Union's side; the Confederacy's side; and, the black slave's side. 

The Union's side is obviously taught as historical record, along with the strong emotional appeal of the black slave's who were freed as a result of abolition. However, that's not the whole story of why the Civil War was fought. 

Yes, slavery was a major part of what the Confederacy represented, but there were other motivating factors behind their separation: including, but not limited to, a belief in greater state sovereignty and a sentiment that the north was attempting to oppress them. 

The great majority of Confederate residents, even property owners and plantation holders, did not own a single slave. They fought for the pride of their homes, families, and selves on the battlefield; not for king cotton and the institution of slavery. 

By no means am I trying to defend the Confederacy, as there is no means by which I could defend them with. They were nothing more than rebels, with a leadership that clung to slavery in a sickening manner. My point is simply to provide a full context to a complicated event. 

A context that, when fully understood, reveals the true contrasts of history to only be available through a prism of grey, because to every story there are multiple sides, and to every truth there are several versions awaiting to be explored further than the accepted account allows. 

So keep this question in mind the next time a conversation of historical record erupts: whose history is it anyway? And from that - the true truth will emerge. 
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