Questions tagged [historiography]

Tag for questions on the study of history itself, such as methodologies or techniques.

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118
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7answers
33k views

Do historians agree that most wars are caused by religion?

I'm not a historian, but this is a very common claim that crops up in debates over God's existence and religious scripture. What is the opinion of the community of professional historians?
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6answers
7k views

How accurate or supported is Jared Diamond's “Guns, Germs, and Steel”?

Jared Diamond wrote a fascinating book that purports to explain, in a very broad way, the development of civilization. It has several explanations for the development of Eurasian civilization rather ...
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15answers
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Are there any important biographies of nobodies?

Biographies usually cover interesting people who said and did notable things. I'm curious about lives notable just for their contexts: the stories of unremarkable people in historically remarkable ...
55
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13answers
70k views

Is history always written by the victors?

The famous "history is written by victors" saying argues that the victors overwhelmingly influence historical accounts. Are there any examples of history written by the(or THE) losers?
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4answers
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Is the photograph “England’s Revenge in India” real, staged, or fake?

Might have an interesting puzzle for you here… This picture, titled "England's Revenge in India", appeared in a Nazi propaganda book against Britain published in 1941: The propaganda book claims ...
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2answers
7k views

Source of quote attributed to W.E.B. Du Bois: “When you have mastered numbers…”

I'm working on a history of data visualization in which some works from the 1900 “Exhibit of American Negroes” at the Paris World Fair (the Exposition Universelle Internationale) are featured. A nice ...
29
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11answers
4k views

How to rebut Holocaust denial argument?

I came across a Holocaust denier who claims that there is a plaque outside Auschwitz which says that the Nazis murdered 1.5 million people there (mostly Jewish). However, the plaque used to say 4 ...
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6answers
4k views

By mid-1945, was Japan capable of maintaining the war even in the absence of further direct American attacks? [closed]

The USA went to a great effort to defeat Japan, but do historians regard it as necessary? For example if the USA had just kept the naval action going to the extent of cutting of all shipping to ...
23
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3answers
6k views

How do historians know the details of a seemingly private event?

Sometimes I read in history that someone said something, but it seems, it's just a daily conversation, or even in private, or a secret event. So how do history writers know these details? It seems ...
22
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2answers
600 views

When did the use of fabricated speeches in historical works go out of fashion?

In his History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides includes a number of made up speeches based upon "what was called for in each situation". While this is frowned upon in modern histories, it seems ...
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5answers
800 views

How to research controversial history?

I wouldn't be naming the specific examples as that might (will) needlessly divert the attention away from the question itself. Let us say I am trying to research about historical events in a region. ...
20
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1answer
1k views

Why did the term “Byzantine Empire” enter common usage instead of “Eastern Roman Empire” or “Roman Empire”

Why did the term "Byzantine Empire" enter common usage instead of "Eastern Roman Empire" or "Roman Empire"? (or Imperium Graecorum?) Wikipedia says that the term Byzantine wasn't used until 1557, and ...
20
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1answer
896 views

What was the Victorian opinion of the American Revolution?

BACKGROUND It's pretty remarkable to me, though perhaps it shouldn't be, how much British popular debate there was about the American Revolution. It was often condemned, but sometimes openly ...
19
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4answers
2k views

What are some indicators that distinguish pseudo-history from actual history?

It is sometimes hard for a layman to separate well-researched history from the writings of kooks (or what Mark Twain called "inspired idiots"). For example: my local library carries "A Secret ...
19
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3answers
2k views

When was the American War of Independence first called a 'Revolution'?

What happened in America seems to be nothing of the kind that happened in France a few years later. American Independence was all about a group of Englishmen exercising their rights under the 1688 ...
19
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3answers
3k views

Do any historians consider superior German airpower as the most important factor in the Battle of France?

In the Battle of France, the Allies and Germans had roughly equal number of divisions and troops, and the Allies actually had more artillery and tanks. But the one area where the Germans had a clear ...
19
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4answers
3k views

Before the Land Bridge Theory, how was human presence in the Americas explained?

The Land Bridge Theory argues that humans crossed over to Alaska from Siberia, via a land bridge created by glaciation. The theory developed in the 1930s and became the popularly accepted explanation ...
19
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2answers
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Has history mistreated Nero?

Nero is (wrongly) "known" as the Emperor who "fiddled while Rome burned." But he did kill a number of prominent people, including his own mother. He is treated by much of history as a psychopath, and ...
18
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4answers
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What kind of evidence (if any) could be used to identify a large conquest in the time before writing?

From what I understand, writing wasn't completely developed during the Bronze Age. So, if there was an Alexander-the-Great-style conquest that united the known world for a short period of time, what ...
18
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8answers
6k views

Is there any research explicitly contradicting facts in Suvorov's “Icebreaker” book series claiming that Stalin intended to attack Hitler in 1941?

Viktor Suvorov is a somewhat famous ex-GRU spy who defected and wrote a series of books. The most (in)famous and sensational were a series of books on World War II, starting with "Icebreaker", which ...
17
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2answers
585 views

Who came up with the name “Peloponnesian War”?

If I understand correctly, Thucydides actually called his book just History. If that is correct, then at what point did it become known as History of the Peloponnesian War? EDIT: Here is how he ...
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5answers
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How is the discipline of History differentiated from other disciplines in social sciences or the humanities?

History is a discipline in the academy that is sometimes a social science and sometimes a humanity. However, there are many other social sciences (e.g., economics, political science) and many other ...
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3answers
2k views

Does Chinese history really span the past 5000 years?

Chinese kids the world over are frequently taught that there is "5000 years of Chinese history". What basis is there for this claim?
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5answers
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I'm reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. What should I watch out for?

I am currently reading William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I find it an interesting take on Nazi Germany, particularly with its emphasis on the viewpoints afforded by the Foreign ...
15
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5answers
491 views

Is there a field of study which attempts to document historic experiences of ordinary individuals?

One of my interests is attempting to understand what human experiences were like for individuals in the past. I want to learn about their day-to-day lives, their fears, their aspirations and what ...
15
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2answers
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What do historians do when there are no sources?

Historians rapidly come up against absence sources: the documentary record of the past is by its nature fragmentary, selective, partial and obtuse. What strategies do historians use when there are ...
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2answers
1k views

Is there contemporary evidence for the Roman Kingdom?

The early history of Ancient Rome is notoriously poorly documented. The Gaul Sack of Rome (390 BC) has destroyed much early written records. What evidence do we have that remains of the Roman Kingdom? ...
14
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1answer
501 views

What was the Nove / Millar debate, how is it important to the historiography of the Soviet Union?

The Nove / Millar debate was a debate amongst economic historians in the 1970s, where the Western understanding of Soviet economic development in the 1920 and 1930s was seriously revised. In ...
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3answers
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Why do all my history books divide Chinese history after the Han dynasty?

I will be teaching middle school World History this year. I surveyed seven different textbooks from different publishers and notice, unlike all other histories of other regions in the world, Chinese ...
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3answers
1k views

Study of causal structures and dynamics in history?

I was not really sure how to phrase this question, but ok, let me try nonetheless. My background is in natural sciences, but I have always been interested in history as well. Over past years I have ...
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2answers
5k views

How do historians deal with Historical Bias?

A while ago while watching Crash Course World History, John Green mentioned how Alexander the Great died from the flu despite many people from that time claiming that he died in battle (because this ...
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1answer
5k views

Did Hongwu Emperor flay 5000 women, and why?

On Wikipedia, there is a snippet that reads: The Hongwu Emperor flayed many servants, officials and rebels.[5][6] In 1396 he ordered the flaying of 5000 women.[7] The problem is that the second ...
12
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3answers
7k views

What is the difference between a professional historian and an amateur?

Some historians appear to practice history professionally, in the sense that they produce histories that are accepted by other historians as "real" and "full." In this sense there is a profession of ...
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3answers
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Did the Delphic oracle speak gibberish?

Wikipedia's article on the Delphic oracle says: The usual theory has been that the Pythia delivered oracles in a frenzied state induced by vapors rising from a chasm in the rock, and that she spoke ...
12
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1answer
626 views

Why do Strabo, Pliny and Diodorus cite Pytheas in disbelief?

According to the wikipedia page on Germanic tribes, (direct quotation) The first news about the Germanic world are contained in the lost Pytheas work. It is believed that Pytheas travelled to ...
12
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1answer
326 views

Was every Roman citizen part of a curia?

In a book by German historian Klaus Bringmann, I read that during the regal period, the whole population was divided into three tribes. He furthermore states that each tribe was divided into 10 curiae ...
12
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2answers
854 views

How accurate did medieval historians think histories to be?

How accurate were histories thought to be by medieval historians? What constituted the historical record? Did folk lore and songs carry as much weight as the churches' histories or other written ...
11
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3answers
2k views

What historical evidence is there for the existence of Jesus Christ? What do we know about him?

How do historians study the events of Jesus' life, and the person he was? I read a book on the topic, and it held the position that the gospels were revised to appease the Romans - especially the ...
11
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3answers
866 views

Is there a definition of history separate from the definition of politics?

I encountered a problem to define something as "history", namely the determination of legal status of Kosovo. The action is so recent, I would say it more belongs to "politics". For my impression ...
11
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4answers
3k views

How do functionalists explain the fact that Holocaust continued until the very end of the war?

While I haven't read Goldhagen or scholars with a similar viewpoint directly, I frequently encounter the following argument that seems very Goldhagenite to me: "The Germans tried to murder Jews up ...
10
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3answers
748 views

Do historians support the existence of brothers to Jesus?

Jesus does not have a brother in some Christian traditions, his mother Mary is a perpetual virgin. For instance the Catholic church holds this theory as a theologoumenon, namely a theological ...
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6answers
7k views

Early modern vs late modern vs post modern?

I frequently come across these three terms, but I haven't been able to find a source that explains the difference between all three of them precisely. Here's what I think I know now: The early ...
10
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4answers
3k views

Were mounted soldiers really an advancement during the Middle Ages?

While reading Charles Oman's "A History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages" it occurred to me that horses and a kind of knight were always available to the Roman Empire, and nevertheless the legions ...
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5answers
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How is progress in history made?

As a concrete example, the Wikipedia article on the historicity of King Arthur quotes historian Thomas Charles-Edwards as saying that "at this stage of the enquiry, one can only say that there may ...
10
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1answer
4k views

Why was record keeping forbidden in Ancient Sparta?

in Ancient Sparta, record keeping and any kind of written history was forbidden by law. (src: https://history.stackexchange.com/a/5966/332 ) What was the rationale for such a law?
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4answers
531 views

Can historiography be thought of as “fractal”?

In developing this answer, and others, it seems fairly typical that I start out broad and then add more and more detail as necessary to answer the question and respond to comments. Sometimes the act ...
10
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3answers
620 views

Is the position of women as portrayed in the Mad Men series historically accurate?

I found similar questions about a game (closed as off topic), a play (7 upvotes) and a movie (9 upvotes) so I am unsure if this is an acceptable question for this SE. In the Mad Men series, which ...
10
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2answers
3k views

How historically accurate is Les Miserables?

In essence, I'm asking about whether there are any historical inaccuracies in the movies/plays themselves. I'm pretty sure the book would have very few, due to the fact that it was written in a ...
10
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2answers
360 views

How many proofs does History require?

There's a well-known story about Andrey Kolmogorov. As a student his first choice of major was not Mathematics but History, and he wrote a serious paper on taxation of Russian serfs. He notices that ...
10
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4answers
2k views

How to validate a historical source

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 ...