Saturday, July 24, 2010
As I write my thesis I'm very much aware of the generalisations I have to make about history. As academic historians (-in-training), we have to be very careful about writing in a number of disclaimers into methodology sections, accepting that we can't know everything about the past, and that the only sources we have are flawed, biased and incomplete. And that's okay. It doesn't mean we no longer have a responsibility to the truth; it just means that we are aware that "the truth" is elusive and sometimes multiple.
I love going through my old sources. Archives, which I didn't get to use much of for this project, are especially exciting when you see handwritten notes by or about the people you spend so much time thinking about. The newspapers I've researched are more exciting to me than today's, and I especially loved the big volumes from which the dust rose in a cloud as I tentatively turned a page. (One of my lecturers always wears an apron and a dust-mask when going to Indian archives, much to the amusement of everyone who sees her.) But they're always going to be limited. Mrs Bloggs down the street who was only really interested in her cat, or Mr Finnigan in the pub who expounded daily, drunkenly, on the exploits of politicians - they are lost to history (most of the time).
But it excites me to think that in the future, historians will have so much to work with on the internet, in the blogs, on forums, etc. Comment is so much freer on the internet, and while sometimes this is unfortunate (leading to abuse), it is very, very interesting, and I beg you all not to delete your blogs if/when you decide to stop writing them!
How do you feel about your blog being a potential mine of information to future historians? What are we writing about that will be plucked from obscurity for the purposes of their MA theses?