Some Thoughts on History

King Louis XI of France surrounded by the Knights of the Order of St. Michael

King Louis XI of France surrounded by the Knights of the Order of St. Michael

It’s the start of a new year and I’ve been having some thoughts on history, what it means to me and what I’ve learned in the last two years. The Freelance History Writer blog was started about a year and a half ago and with all the learning I’ve done since then, I’ve had some revelations I’d like to share. These opinions are entirely my own.

History is not an exact science! Far from it. In some cases especially the farther back you go, the records are so scanty, it’s hard to know what is real and what isn’t. And every historian has their own interpretation of these records. You could have ten historians read a passage and you could get ten different ideas about what it means. No one is 100% right when it comes to history. When researching a post for the blog, I try to read as much about the records as I can and get one or more interpretations from other historians. I then make up my own mind about what it means.

History can change. Nothing is written in stone. There can be new discoveries or an examination of the old theories that make a new interpretation necessary. This is perfectly normal and natural. There can be archaeological finds that might change the records or confirm some interpretations. Just look at the discovery of the bones of King Richard III of England. Some records say he was a hunchback or deformed in some way. Well, the bones verified that he did have a curvature of the spine. Another example is portraits of people which many thought were one person but when the evidence is examined and other portraits compared, it turns out it might be someone else entirely. As historians, we must keep an open mind.

One thing I have learned a lot about is sources for writing about history. In this day and age there are so many sources available right at our fingertips. As long as you have a computer, you can usually find what you need. Personally, I always like to have books; real books that I can put my hands on. I’ve always been a great reader and I take great pleasure in reading a history book. And books have indexes that can help you find the information you need.

There are many books online as well as magazine articles and other blogs. I’ve had some really good luck with Google Books. You can put in a search term and if there is a book that has information on that subject, those pages will come up. This has saved me many times. Another good source is online databases. I recently signed up with my local public library and have found some good resources there. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has been very helpful and is available in the library of one of our local universities. Access to it is free. One nice thing about these databases and online articles is many times they have a list of sources at the end where you can explore a topic further.

Another pleasant discovery in doing all of this research is serendipity. Serendipity is the accidental discovery of something pleasant, valuable or useful. How many times have I found another interesting woman or fascinating battle or historical incident while doing research on another topic? This is a big part of what makes history and research fun for me. History is always fascinating. Thank you to all the loyal followers and readers for joining with me here at The Freelance History Writer.

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