0

Are there any ideas that one would have in History intuitively that would be disproven by analysis?

On the other hand, are there any intuitive historical ideas that have been verified by historians?

This could apply to any period in History. Thanks.

closed as too broad by Denis de Bernardy, justCal, Steve Bird, congusbongus, Tom Au Oct 4 '17 at 1:43

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 2
    Welcome to the History Stack. You might want to check out the Tour and the section on questions. This seems to be asking for a list of examples, and so would be difficult to address with a single, concise answer. – justCal Oct 3 '17 at 13:38
  • I was not necessarily asking for many examples. In fact, I just want to know if the cases are possible but thanks for redirecting me to the links. – M. Harrow Oct 3 '17 at 13:40
  • Yes. I am not sure the counterintuitives are shared. Look for articles on myths about history, or "facts" you learned. Klarman's latest book is about the anitipopulist nature of the us Constitution. Or the recent question on the emancipation proclamation. – Mark C. Wallace Oct 3 '17 at 13:44
  • 2
    Do you mean intuitive like the way assume medieval Europe was racially homogeneous? Or that everyone that time was religious? – rougon Oct 3 '17 at 17:15
  • 1
    @rougon Wait, do you mean that mediaeval Europe was not homogenous? Wow, now I'm an example of someone who held intuitive but incorrect ideas about History. – M. Harrow Oct 4 '17 at 0:22
6

One example of such an idea is that the 20th century was especially violent. This is based on recollections of two world wars, enormous progress in arms technology, and comparison with the two previous centuries. However an analysis made by modern historians suggests that the loss of life due to violence (as a percentage of population) steadily declines if we look at long periods of history.

References: Lawrence Keeley, War Before Civilization The Myth of the Peaceful Savage. Oxford UP, 1996. Steven Pinker, The better angels of our nature, Viking, 2011. (There is no consensus on this, see Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate, Modern Denial of Human Nature for exposition of various points of view).

Here is a little specific example from Pinker (he is talking here about criminal violence):

When I surveyed perceptions of violence in an Internet questionnaire, people guessed that 20th-century England was about 14 percent more violent than 14th-century England. In fact it was 95 percent less violent.

Another common misconception is that people started to influence significantly their natural environment only with the beginning of the industrial era. This is disproved by many examples both from history and pre-history. Examples: extinction of large mammals in Australia and Americas in pre-historical period.

  • 1
    A summary of War Before Civilization by Wikipedia – J Asia Oct 3 '17 at 21:14
  • 3
    One example of such an idea is the belief that you can measure violence by counting deaths. However, an analysis of medical techniques suggests that many injuries that would have been uniformly fatal in 1900 were highly survivable in 2000. – Mark Oct 4 '17 at 0:40
  • @Mark: progress in medicine in the last 100 years has marginal impact on the trend that I tried to describe in my answer. I was talking on really long-time trend. – Alex Oct 6 '17 at 20:54

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.