Eh Carr Research Proposal

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Worster's Dust Bowl: Is it Carr's History?

Carr's Standards

In his book, What is History?, Edward Hallett Carr (1965) defines history in a way that has perhaps been lost in contemporary history. Our perspectives on history has been shaped by modern reporting of the facts as they relate to events, but, as Carr succinctly points out, and quoting, he thinks, one of Pirandello's characters: ". . . A fact is like a sack -- it won't stand up till you've put something in it (p. 9)." In other words, historians can give us the facts, but until they lend perspective to the facts, it doesn't stand up; it doesn't become an event worthy of discussion. Based on the facts, one can either agree, or disagree with the historian's perspective. This is Carr's standard, and it is a good one, because it provides the reader of history with points to consider, and stimulates the reader towards critical thinking in considering the points. That reader arrives at his or her own conclusions, whether they are in support of or contrary to the historian's, is what keeps the analysis and dialogue of the past in the present.

This does not mean that we must be a backward looking society, but that we take the lessons learned from the past forward with us. There is no need to reinvent the wheel in concept, because the facts of how the wheel operates do not change. Rather, we can improve upon that wheel, make it stronger so that it goes further and lasts longer.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Research Proposal on Eh Carr Assignment

As Carr says, we only know the historical facts, but the facts do not provide the insight into the how and why of why those historical facts should be important to us as a society without the benefit of explanation of those who lived in the time and place of the events, and those who were the decision makers, the driving forces behind the historical events. Unless they offered their decision making processes, explained to us their perceptions about what was occurring, then we do not know. Thus, we have many facts about historical times and dates and events through documents, but we do not always have the thoughts to put into perspective the mindset of the people involved in those events (pp. 17-18). Additionally, the documents that are sometimes analyzed for us by people, even when they were present in the lives of the people who were key players in the events, do not necessarily reflect the understanding of the person who was the driving force behind the events (p. 18).

Carr uses the example of Stresemanns Vermachtnis, a book written by the Bernhardt, secretary to the former Foreign Minister of the Weimare Republic, who died leaving behind 300 boxes of documents related to his service as Foreign Minister, which Bernhard then used to write three volumes detailing from his close perspective the events, people, places and times that he believed were significant to the Foreign Minister's work (p. 16).

When Hitler came to power, the original books by Bernhardt were destroyed, but the original documents survived, and were preserved when the United States and Britain copied the documents for research and review, making them available to the public (pp. 17-18). However, the original book was also translated by a well-known translator, Sutton; but Sutton translated only about three-thirds of the book, which means that Sutton, after Bernhardt, decided which events and which of Bernhardt's perspectives on those events, were to be included, or not included in the translated copies of the original book (p. 18).

Carr's point is that the historian puts his perspective into play. Certainly neither Bernhardt nor Sutton knew the mind of the former Foreign Minister; although suffice to say Bernhardt had a better insight into the decisions and perspective of the Foreign Minister; but Sutton lacked insight into either Bernhardt's process for including and excluding documents for reflection, or the Foreign Minister's perspective, yet Sutton created a "condensed" version of Bernhardt's book (p. 18). So what we have from history is often not the perspective of the person directly involved, but the perceptions and the interpretations of those events and people from the historian's eye. Carr's point here was to demonstrate that, but also to demonstrate that there are perhaps many different perspectives that could have reflected analysis of the events and people in the life of the Foreign Minister, and yet none of them would have had the direct benefit of having come from the Foreign Minister his self. So we would have accurate events being reported, but the analysis of those events and the conclusions drawn from the documents of those events, would, and correctly so, be informed by Bernhardt, who was close to the Foreign Minister; but not necessarily the thoughts or ideas of the Foreign Minister -- and especially not in the case of Sutton's condensed version.

Nonetheless, historical documents and events should be analyzed, and the conclusions of the historian about those events, based on the factual documents, serve to compel the reader to do further research, because inevitably there will questions that go unanswered in the mind of the reader. Yet the reader needs the views, the analysis, of the historian to create something by which to compare, to lead him or her to further ideas, and to inspire different views on the events the documents represent.

Equally, from this scenario, Carr also says, we should study not just the history, but also the historian, because the historian is making a social inquiry, and is a social being, "and the imaginary antithesis between society and the individual is no more than a red herring drawn across our path to confuse our thinking. The reciprocal process of interaction between the historian and his facts, what I have called the dialogue between present and past, is a dialogue not between abstract and isolated individuals, but between the society of today and the society of yesterday . . . The past is intelligible to us only in the light of the present; and we can fully understand the present only in the light of the past (p. 69)."

Carr's third point is that the argument that there is nothing to be learned from history because history is not science; and it cannot lead us to a "future prediction (p. 86)." This is complicated, Carr says, when we put into the formula the historian moralist (p. 96). Carr says that it is impossible to say that, based on history, a lesson for the future should be concrete; rather that history and the analysis of it is an ongoing, living process, and it is always coming from the insight and the experiences of the present in the light of analysis that it is presented in. The historian, Carr says, is a scientist, who is always asking the question, "Why? (112)." So, we look backward, but should always move forward, and move forward with a forward thinking perspective that is always bringing the past up-to-date. This happens when the historian analyzes causation (pp. 113-143).

History is a process, Carr says, begins when "men begin to think of the passage of time not in terms of natural processes -- the cycle of the seasons, the human life span -- but of a series of specific events in which men are consciously involved and which they can consciously influence (p. 178)."

These are the standards by which Carr explains "What is History?" And, as we can see, the past, lives as historians continually revisit it, analyze it, and then posit conclusions that are then considered by others. What is historically relevant is a reflection of the mindset of the historian in support of his or her conclusions drawn from a study of the documents of events, places, times, and people. What is not acceptable is if we endeavor to eradicate the facts so that they can no longer be analyzed or considered. The facts are but the building blocks of history, and it is the human factor that continues to evolve the history in the present. History begins with the facts of the past, but evolves with the human condition of each historian who reviews those facts, and if we attempt to obliterate the facts, then it will be revealed, because the past will cease to make sense to us as it pertains to the human condition.

Carr's Standards in Worster's Dust Bowl

If we begin Donald Worster's Dust Bowl () by observing Carr's standards, then we would look to, first, understand Worst as the historian. Worster's brief biography (2006) as a lecturer reads:

"Donald Worster is Joyce and Elizabeth Hall Professor of History at the University of Kansas. He received a BA in 1963 and an MA in 1964 from the University of Kansas. He continued his education at Yale University, earning an MPhil in 1970 and a PhD in 1971. Dr. Worster's research, lecturing, and teaching fields include: the environmental history of North America and the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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