By Michael Stanford
This publication courses scholars via all of the principal old techniques, theories, equipment and difficulties confronting these engaged within the severe research of background.
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Extra resources for A Companion to the Study of History
Thirdly, what of societies and civilizations that were mutually ignorant like Europe and China before Marco Polo or America before Columbus? Were they not completely separate cumulations of history? Finally, it can be asked whether the present is the sum of all that has gone before. Strictly, we cannot tell. I cannot point to anything in the past that contributed nothing to the present; my mere knowledge of it would make it a contribution. Yet we do not know all the past, so possibilities remain of unknown past events that shaped our present.
History is a 'one-off'; it is unique. But uniqueness does not imply unity. We recall that many parts of the world have lived for millennia in mutual ignorance hardly a historical unity, though perhaps a geographical one. But today all parts of the world are involved with one another, and they are aware of it. Is not world history (in both senses of the word) becoming a fact? So perhaps it does have a kind of unity the unity of a river system, where many tributary streams flow into one. Again, history is a sequence, but is it an ordered sequence?
Let us show the difference between event and account in practice. By way of example we will look at the anti-communist revolutions in central and eastern Europe in the autumn of 1989. The situation, of course, was the result of preceding events. But in it occurred deliberate actions on the part of hundreds of thousands of men, women and even children. To be sure, the historian of these events has to understand how this situation came about. He may well conclude that no such revolution could have succeeded had the USSR been willing to send its tanks in, as in East Berlin in 1953, in Budapest in 1956 and in Prague in 1968.