Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ambassador Group Reflections: How Do Documents Shape Historical Thinking?

Group 1: Armed with their new archival knowledge, the three unlikely friends set out to answer a question: "How do documents shape historical thinking?"

Their new experiences studying historical documents led them to multiple conclusions. Certain kinds of documents such as diary entries give us a first hand point of view, personal accounts of an event, and have the ability to prove or disprove certain theories historians may have.

After viewing old maps, the three unlikely friends learned that maps gave us the ability to see how people in the past pictured the world. One map depicted California as an island, while another didn't include Canada. Through all of these observations, the trio had learned the importance of documents in historical thinking.

Group 2: Through our time in the archive we realized that documents shape historical thinking in both positive and negative ways. Documents such as historical diaries offer an insight into the past, however historians must decipher whether the source is accurate. Only through comparison of more sources can a historian create a more accurate view of the past. Some problems with personal diaries or letters is the human tendency to exaggerate. Comparison of sources can help eliminate that problem. Contracts from the past can help a historian gain a view of the legal process of the period, as well as the economy of the time. These documents are difficult to preserve and keep in good condition, but the knowledge obtained through them is priceless.

Group 3: Looking at historical documents is very interesting. Documents help shape historical thinking in several ways. They help give an idea of what events were going on. In this way, documents not only give details regarding the life of the common man, but they also tell what life was like for the more famous people of history. Documents can also influence historical thinking by offering only one point of view. It is up to the historian to gather many documents about the same topic to get a balanced perspective on the event. Finally, when looking at historical documents, it is important to practice historical empathy by putting ourselves in the shoes of the person who created the document. We really enjoyed looking at documents yesterday, especially one signed by Abraham Lincoln.

Group 4: Historical documents present a written record of the past. These pieces are the only voices from history that we can hear. For example, the only way historians could figure out where the Wick property was was through written contracts from the King. People who interact with the documents can alter our present day perspective of the past. Underlines, marks, or notes on a historical document add to its history and mold our perspective of that document. As historians, we need to see the original intent of the document rather than the biased view that we have due to our present day opinions.

Group 5: Documents give us more information that we can rely on to be true as they are written by the people who lived in that event or era. We gain many different perspectives by numerous or even contradicting documents. It is important to place them in context in order to achieve a proper understanding.

These documents are important to experience what the people living in that time were feeling, like a means of catharsis. Historical thinking depends a lot on the many documents we discover. They each give us a piece of history to expand our knowledge and appreciate.

Read Other Reflections Here:

No comments:

Post a Comment