According to Questia, “Historiography contributes a meta-analysis to the discipline of history, studying how the history of a topic is interpreted and reconstructed, to form a body of knowledge that is accepted as true.” Sometimes history is thought of as static, but not only do events build on each other, but certain dates, such as the Ides of March, seem to be marked as more historically significant than others.
Of course, many view this idea of clustered events as part and parcel of pseudoscience. Deciphering how the interpretation of certain historical events has altered over time, and the way cognitive biases influence us offers many areas to explore in a research paper.
We’ve all heard the quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In a manner of speaking, historiography’s goal is to ensure that doesn’t happen. A research paper could examine how each generation’s reading of history changes, how it is shaped and influenced by their time period and viewpoints.
In his book, Modern Historiography: An Introduction, Michael Bentley wrote, “The task lies not in providing an original reading or interpretation of any single writer or school but instead to seek freshness of viewpoint by offering a synthetic account which searches for connection and comparison and which is not afraid to look beyond the subject of history for explanation of what historians do and how they think.” Recent scholars have focused on re-reading history through our modern focus on ethnicity and identity. What will the future historiographers be concerned with when reevaluating the past?
Shaped by pseudoscience
While historiography and pseudoscience may seem worlds apart, the idea of reexamining the past, which historiography does, can often get bogged down in our own cognitive biases, which pseudoscience feeds into. A research paper could look at common ways people fall prey to pseudoscience such as sunk cost fallacy or confirmation and selection.
“Why people fall for pseudoscience (and how academics can fight back)” posted by Sian Townson on January 26, 2017, for theguardian.com described pseudoscience as “Bold statements in multi-syllabic scientific jargon give the false impression that they’re supported by laboratory research and hard facts.”
One example is the clustering illusion. Humans have an instinct to group events together. But just because something happened at the same time, doesn’t mean the two events are related or connected in any way.
Beware the Ides of March
Speaking of the clustering illusion, could that be the case with the grouping of events that have fallen on one of history’s most infamous days—the Ides of March? T.A. Frail wrote, “Top Ten Reasons to Beware the Ides of March” on March 10, 2010, for Smithsonian.com listing the historically significant events that have occurred on March 15 throughout human history.
The most well-known by students of history or Shakespeare is probably the assignation of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. But since that time, at least nine other big events in history have occurred on March 15, according to Frail. In the 20th century alone, Czar Nicholas II abdicated his throne on March 15, 1917, Germany occupied then-Czechoslovakia in 1939, NASA reported a greater than anticipated depletion of the ozone in 1988 and the World Health Organization first issued an alert about what would become known as SARS in 2003.
Does this mean that the Ides of March is fated to be a traumatic day in history or is it merely a clustering illusion? A research paper could delve deeper into any of the major events that happened on March 15 throughout history to do a historiographical reading of that event’s impact on humankind.
Can searching for connections in history, aka historiography, go too far and veer into a pseudoscience kind of area? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.