Final Essay<br />“History 141, History of the Americas Since the 1800s” used many varied sources of information to illustr...
Assignment 8 - Final Essay
Assignment 8 - Final Essay
Assignment 8 - Final Essay
Assignment 8 - Final Essay
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

Assignment 8 - Final Essay

973 views

Published on

Published in: Education
0 Comments
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total views
973
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
1
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
0
Comments
0
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Assignment 8 - Final Essay

  1. 1. Final Essay<br />“History 141, History of the Americas Since the 1800s” used many varied sources of information to illustrate the tide of history over the Americas in the last 100 years. These sources contributed facts, conjecture and a sense of what motivated the nations, cultures, leaders and citizens that created our world today. All were interesting. Some surprised and some challenged beliefs. Others appeared agenda driven. While all the sources helped to bring a better understanding of the history of the Americas, some had more validity than others.<br />Our concept of “History” comes from Herodotus, the father of History. This fifth century B.C Greek witnessed the world-changing events of his day, the invasion of Greece by the Persian Empire. Hoping “that time may not draw the color from what man has brought into being, nor those great and wonderful deeds …fail of their report,” he objectively explored and documented all aspects of that great conflict and titled it “The History,” a Greek word meaning, “an inquiry or knowledge acquired by investigation.”<br />The whole of Western science (and History is no exception), is based on the objective search for truth through rational inquisitiveness. This helps us understand the world, our place in it and perhaps, by examining past mistakes, avoiding future ones.<br /> There are many ways to investigate the past. And each investigator brings their personal knowledge and experience to the process, creating different perspectives or viewpoints. The sources for History 141 fell into five distinct viewpoints: broad, focused, empathetic, microscopic, and opinionated. A wide array of viewpoints helps in acquiring knowledge of the past. But the further an investigator strays from an objective viewpoint the less validity that investigation provides.<br />A broad overview of history is a fact-based, chronologic presentation of the past – names, dates, places and events. It is an academic, “old-school” style and responsible for many bad memories of high school history. The material, although dry and hard to process, is certainly valid.<br />Kevin Starr’s book, “California” represents this style. Its straightforward, linear telling of the events forming California, from European contact to present day, seems fixed and immutable. It examines a “finished and complete” California, explaining to the reader how we arrived here with events strung one after another like beads on a string. The author supplied objective, valid information. The reader is left to formulate their own thoughts. This style is somewhat dry; a format to deliver names, dates and places. But the validity of this work is unquestionable.<br />A focused viewpoint examines a single event or topic within a larger historical era. This occurs as historians investigate well-studied eras where large bodies of information already exist. Often the passage of time gives a new perspective to events previously unnoticed. This viewpoint can be exceptionally valid, adding poignancy and fresh insight to events we think we understand. But the validity of this style only remains when the author is objective. <br /> “Crossroads of Freedom,” by James M. McPherson is an excellent example of this focused viewpoint. Within the voluminous body of research and knowledge on the Civil War, McPherson examined the Battle of Antietam, its effects on the Union and Confederate armies, public opinion of the war, and political events of the day. His premise is that this bloody, tactical draw was the pivotal event of the Civil War; in its aftermath England and France deferred recognition of the Confederacy, the Republican Party kept control of Congress and Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation changing the moral tone of the war and the nation forevermore. The author leads us to conclusions but does so by laying down facts. It is an objective and interesting re-examination of well-known material. Objectively focusing on specific events and themes within the context of the greater whole is an exceptionally valid historical tool for creating new perspectives and understanding.<br />Broad empirical fact and focused examinations are based on information and data. Many historians overlook the lives and feelings of individual people when documenting the sweep of history. An empathetic view of historic events can restore the feeling, emotion and life into history, a topic many feel is dry and static. Often termed “historical fiction,” authors enmesh fictional characters in historical settings. “The Alienist,” by Caleb Carr and “The Underdogs,” by Mariano Azuela exemplify this viewpoint. The plot focuses on the characters, yet historic figures and times are fleshed out. This is a valid tool to illuminate history, especially to the uninitiated and especially when the factual background is well known or researched.<br />“The Alienist” takes place in 1896 New York City. Although the Carr’s main focus is a team (including Theodore Roosevelt!) racing to capture a serial killer, ever present in the background is the city of New York. From the opera boxes of the wealthy society patrons to the squalid poor in tenement slums, the city is portrayed as effectively as the fictional characters and storyline. Through Caleb Carr’s research of the past, one feels how life must have been for people living at that time and how those times led to the present day. Certainly, this is a valid historic tool even though it is fiction.<br />In “The Underdogs,” the desperation, bravery and futility of the Mexican Revolution come alive. Mariano Azuela’s perspective is different from Carr’s; he witnessed the events he wrote about. “The Underdogs” is not a polished work like “The Alienist” (though much may have been lost in translation), but it has more feeling for the times, the events and impulses that drove the characters. This empathetic viewpoint brings a unique validity that only a participant in the events can convey.<br />When an author examines a small event or topic and elevates its importance above the framework of the event in which it occurred, it creates a microscopic viewpoint. “The Race War, American and Japanese Perceptions of the Enemy,” an excerpt from “Japan in War and Peace,” by John W. Dower exemplifies this style. From 1939 to 1945, the state-sponsored militarism of Nazi Germany and Imperialistic Japan spread over the globe, killing, conquering and enslaving hundreds of millions in the deadliest conflict the world has ever known. John Dower’s article focuses only on the racial attitudes of the United States and Japan. <br />This focus is akin to examining a single tile of a mosaic; it only makes sense seen in context with the whole. The reader has a responsibility to assess the author’s purpose. Is it to illuminate an underrepresented topic within a known framework or to passively offer his viewpoint using history? The reader can accept the author’s premise or examine objective facts and draw their own conclusion. The style is less valid as a historical source, as an uninformed or lazy reader will fail to connect the small part back to the greater whole.<br />A microscopic viewpoint can limit the understanding of knowledge, yet validity can be even further reduced when an author uses history to promote their own opinions. This opinioned viewpoint, while useful as a persuasive tool, is the least valid as a historic reference source. “The Second World,” by Parag Khanna falls in this category. This work is a well-researched argument of his personal viewpoint as he explains the world and how it will be in the next century. It is not a valid historical source.<br />Khanna sees three inter-connected “worlds,” the developed, First World (China, the European Union and the United States), the poor, undeveloped Third World and the Second World – nations that while not world leaders, are functioning states somewhat able to provide for their citizens and control their regions. In Khanna’s vision of the future, the First World will vie for power and sway via economic and strategic ties to this Second World.<br />Parag Khanna is obviously intelligent. His grasp of geo-politics is staggering. Yet this is his perspective of how the future will occur, not objective information from which to draw conclusions. The conclusions are his, agree or not. His viewpoint is lessened by a clear bias against the United States. The sins of the U.S. are well cataloged. Yet China’s shrinking labor force (results of the statist ‘one family, one child’ law) and abysmal human rights and environmental practices are unmentioned, as are the European Union’s work-ethic divide and staggering debt default of its southeastern members.<br />His viewpoint is further lessened by the fact that while he seems almost smug in his view that the United States will deservedly become irrelevant in the twenty first century, he resides in New York City. Here he can freely criticize the nation whose comforts and freedoms he enjoys while lauding nations he shuns. This source of information is interesting and thought provoking. It is also entirely conjectural. As a historical tool for better understanding the Americas, this type of source is the least valid of all.<br />The many sources used for History 141, in all their forms and genres helped to bring a new and deeper understanding of the people and events that formed the Americas over the last century. Authors over many years have examined the past and compiled many sources of information. The closer these sources are in style to the ancient Greek ideal of History as “an inquiry or knowledge acquired by investigation,” the more valid that source viewpoint is as a tool. If we keep to that tradition, hopefully in our own historic times, as Herodotus said so long ago, “time may not draw the color from what man has brought into being, nor those great and wonderful deeds …fail of their report.”<br />

×