World Civilizations

Interpretations of Fact

Introduction: Participate in this exercise to learn more about how histories are told. Most people who compile histories are attempting to represent the facts as accurately as possible, but bias is always a factor. After all, the person or persons writing the history have had certain experiences, have grown up in a certain area, and see things in a way which inevitably color their interpretation of the historical documents. The "truth" often lies somewhere between the disparate interpretations you may encounter.

Instructions: We have chosen two main texts for your review, both which tell the story of the American Revolutionary Period, with different intentions and different agendas. Write a short paper comparing the Soviet interpretation of the events vs. that written by George Tindall, a standard American collegiate text.

Look carefully at who authored each work, and review their presentation of the facts. Does each version present the same historical facts? Do the texts eliminate or play down certain facts while focusing on others? Do they interpet those facts differently? Does the language suggest any kind of bias*? What is that bias? Write a paper which compares specific elements of each treatment and draws conclusions about the author and the referenced works. Be sure to include a paragraph in your analysis which identifies what you have learned about the interpretation of historical facts. Will this affect how you read textbooks in the future?

If you wish to add more depth to your analysis, draw upon other versions of the history of this period. The source list presents a radical right interpretation, a history written by middle school students, another by college students in the Netherlands, and several other versions.

*When we say "bias" we are not necessarily speaking negatively. We are not talking about racial bias, though you may decide that plays a role. We are referring to the reflection of the authors' attitudes and experiences, which inevitably affect what he or she produces in a certain way.

Note: As you are studying HOW a certain history has been written instead of writing about the actual history, the textbooks themselves are primary to your study. (For more explanation of primary and secondary sources, click here.)

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World Civilizations

RESEARCH: Ralph'sWorld Civilizations
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Last revised June 5, 1997.
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