When it comes to histography, how can historians, authors and even the readers of the histories be aware of the accuracy of the histories that they read and write?


This thought has been in the back of my mind for quite a while due to the fact that throughout my time learning about history, I learned that things were not always what they seemed to be or were not how I was taught long ago like how Columbus never actually set foot on American soil and his reverence as an American hero came much later after the foundation of America as a nation (and it was done by Italian immigrants, not Americans), or how the stories of Nero during the great fire of Rome were probably exaggerated and sensationalist remarks of the tyrant that he was during that time to picture him in a bad image, or how I learned that the Greco-Persian war and the Peloponnesian War were not that black and white as I was told before, or how I once taught that the Roman Enpire actually ended after the fall of Rome during the 4th Century but actually still existed as the Byzantine Empire (at least the historians call it that because the Byzantines still called themselves Romans) till the 15th Century.

All of these were either the results of misinformation (whether intentional or not; possible bias or perhaps propaganda (like Herodotus, the father of history, is also known as the father of lies (at least, that was what he was known for at a time) becuase at was later found in the Histories, some connotations were either false or make-believe); or where some facts or evidence were re-arranged in a manner that people viewed as what was fit for them or how they saw it (like The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon where he glorified the legacies and the actions that the Western Roman Empire left behind that impacted Europe but completely neglected the Byzantine Empire); or where there are historical information that you find in plenty of books, articles and websites and are treated as fact or valid but later investigations or later insight of other perspectives of a certain event with say otherwise (like for example, there is a online comic that depicts as Nikola Tesla as a greatest and misunderstood genius who ever lived. I even believed that too until I encountered a detailed article (I think it was on reddit as well, I cannot remember) that debunked the whole article and treated it as rhetoric. Or another example is when later investigations found that the pyramids were probably built by paid workers, not by slaves)

There are plenty of people involved here – historians who have to examine the perspectives of the people who wrote these histories, whether it is from other books, letters, drawings, diaries and so on; then you have the people themselves who even wrote these stories in the beginning which could differ in context, description, accuracy or exaggeration; then you have the authors of the history books, the academic articles, the websites and the forums online, and then you have the teachers and the students who learn and teach what they know and spread the message along.

So obviously, then it comes to histography and passing those histories along, there is a possibility that errors might come up, perhaps a person understood the story in a different way, or when passing the story by word of mouth could lead ommission/addition/change of certain details, translations from different languages can lead to possible inaccurate mistranslations as different language may not have the exact word of every word from another language or certain words or phrases could interpreted differently, and so on and so forth.

It sounds like a big thought where I am probably jumping to conclusions without knowing the answers but it is something that makes me think and sometimes even worry when misinformation is spread around treated as valid or factual

Source: reddit post


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