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You can learn and understand history various ways such as learning in a university, reading books, being taught by someone with a background in history, watching TV, browsing the internet, or, in my case, (and my question) from games.

How can I be sure that the source that I am learning history from is the correct source? Maybe (or most of the time) this source is hiding information or neglecting it. I didn't study history at a university, but at first TV, such as National Geographic, and later games were my sources of collecting information. When I was a kid, I played a game called Age of Empires. It was the first game that gave me some info about history, such as the different eras and some knowledge about civilizations. Other games, like Call of Duty or other shooter games, talk about history as well. However, there is a game called Civilisation that is really really into history and goes into various detailed things about every civilization. However, I discovered that games in general gives you specific information in order to achieve the game purpose. For example, Call of Duty in some series points out how the Nazis were bad and Hitler should be killed. In Civilization, there is information abut civilizations that are missing and there are questions about why they specified such people.

My question: the source we are collecting information from most of the time is hiding information or showing incorrect info. Especially to an amateur like me who likes history, how can we avoid such things?

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4 Answers

First off, the study of history is composed of three basic types of sources.

Primary sources are the originals from the time of the event. Histories, for example, is a primary source. It was written at the time of or soon after the event(s) occurred.

Secondary sources are basically compilations of multiple primary sources. These are written much later than the event. An example would be a thesis using primary sources as sources for the work.

Tertiary sources are compilations of multiple secondary sources. An example would be a research report not citing any primary sources.

As you get further from the primary source, more errors and bias are introduced into the work.


That said, TV and games are rarely good representations of history. The makers main objective is usually to make money. A little fact, some fiction, and a good deal of embellishment are all thrown into the mix, which in turn excites the audience and turns a profit for the maker.

If a historical work doesn't have any source cited, you can bet your shoes it has more than just the facts in it. Always, always, always check a historical work for sources. Those are its credentials. No sources, probably not worth your time. If it has deep sources, there's a good chance it is mostly factual history. I cannot say it enough: sources are the root of factual history. Don't listen to something that doesn't take the time to cite its sources. It's almost always junk designed simply to excite the audience and turn a profit.

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"TV and games are rarely good representations of history" must be the understatement of the year. Most likely a TV show or a game has nothing to do with history, except for Hollywood version of historic costumes and a few familiar historic names mixed with fictional characters. –  Michael Sep 25 '13 at 21:36
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I'd like to add to the above that primary and most secondary sources are more often than not are inaccessible for amateurs. One has to invest a great deal of time to learn History from truly credible sources, especially because one has to learn how to deal with the subjective component of the primary sources. In fact, IMO subjectivity of the primary sources makes them less credible than that of well-researched secondary sources. –  Michael Sep 25 '13 at 21:41
    
Here's an exception though, a primary source on WWII that's written well enough for amateurs not to get frustrated: "The Second World War" by Winston Churchill. –  Michael Sep 25 '13 at 21:44
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The purpose of a game is to provide entertainment for the players, not to teach history. So if it is historical accuracy you are after, you won't find it in games.

The next step up is shows like National Geographic or the History Channel, but they cater to the lowest common denominator and grossly oversimplify things for their audience. So what you should do is visit your Public Library and get to know the librarian, ask her for recommendations and advice.

Others would disagree with me and say No, go to Wikipedia, or Barnes and Noble, or your local university. The main thing is to seek out knowledgeable people willing to listen to your questions and answer with advice appropriate to you. In my experience, such advice is easier to get in person than over the Internet.

Beware of Youtube, it's chock full with completely insane conspiracy mongering by hateful, twisted people.

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my question : the source we are collecting inforamtion in most of the tims is hiding information of showing incorrected info , espcially to an amatrue like me who likes history , how can we avoid such things?

There are some things you can be sure about and some that you will never know for 100% are true/false/accurate. Facts throughout history are easier to understand and list, such as dates, people, events, etc. We know they happened, especially within the past 100 years when the world has been exposed to photographs and television. The bigger issue is understanding the underlying context and analysis. Why did things happen is something that we will never know for 100%. That is why so many controversies and debates exist within history, because you can have a hundred historians studying the same subject and looking at the same sources and they'll come away with 100, or more, different interpretations based on their own specialization, understanding, background, interest, and knowledge base. There is no absolute way of avoiding misinformation because for that you'll have to look at all the information the historian or author you're reading looked through, and that's impossible. And if somehow that were possible, your interpretation might easily differ from that of someone else. But that doesn't mean either of you is wrong, it simply means the world is not black and white and events unfold due to so many reasons and factors that it is truly impossible for any one person or one study to objectively encompass them all.

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Since history us commonly used to justify politics, it is extremely prone to ideological biases. You cannot trust even the primary sources - things written by the event participants. E.g., if you read the Soviet press on 1941 June 20, you will learn that the main war monger is Churchill, and if you read it on 1941 June 25, you will learn that the main war monger is Hitler.

You have to don your Sherlock Holmes cap and figure out who is lying where, looking for small discrepancies and inconsistencies. All evidence can be interpreted multiple ways and one has to create a theory consistent with the majority of the evidence - which is a non-trivial task.

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