Group: Diego Martinez, Patrick Esu, Rhea Mehta.
History seeks to study and explain the significant events of the past on the basis of currently existing evidence. It focuses on the concrete and particular and reminds us that human behavior can never be fill explained in terms of neat and tidy models
Our knowledge question is, "how does a historian access the reliability of source?” Our main point is to show how historians assess the reliability of evidence by looking at the credibility of the evidence: whether or not the details are agreed on by a select majority, the reliability of testimonies and investigating the reasons why some parts of the story are hidden or altered. To do this, we are going to analyze an article posted by Texas Public Radio, called "Texas Matters: The Slocum Massacre— An Update.” The Slocum Massacre took place in 1910 at Slocum, East Texas.
Martin Davies, David. Texas Public Radio. “Texas Matters: The Slocum Massacre - An Update.” Dec. 31, 2015. Web.
Patrick Hsu explained this in a very good way:
A historian assesses the reliability of evidence by looking at the strength of the evidence, whether or not the details are agreed on by many people, the reliability of testimonies, and investigating any reasons for the story to be covered up or muddled.
Reasons as to why the massacre doesn’t exist in our known Texas history include a variety of possibilities, all of which are plausible. One reason is that many of the white citizens of Slocum didn’t want to mention it as it would soil their name and many of the black citizens of Slocum buried/disposed of the bodies of the dead to avoid further aggravating the attackers the day of the massacre. According to the article, it was also unknown who exactly the attackers were and who and how many exactly were shot. The reason the story was even looked into was because descendants of an escapee decided that they needed to honour the victims by immortalizing their story into part of Texas history forever. It is even possible that Texas doesn’t want to include this event into their history for it’s not anything to be proud of, an example of the bias of wanting to keep a certain public image affecting history.
As historians, we can analyse this event for reliability of the evidence. Based on the article, much of the physical evidence doesn’t exist, but some of the men who opened fire were tried in court, and there have to be records of that. Most of what the family knows is based of word of mouth; they pass down the story to honor their past. So far it seems to be pretty unreliable. However, we can also look at the idea that Texas history doesn’t want this included as it’s a deplorable act that was more or less excused in the end. Also, the photo of the marker on the article we read seems to be censored, so that adds an extra layer of someone possibly trying to cover up something.
Important features of history:
- evidence: we can know the past to the extent that we have evidence on it
- significance: history is only concern with the significant things that happened in the past
- explanations and understanding: try to understand why it happened
Reasons for studying the past:
- sense of identity: implied in the WoK
memory: a country without a person is like a person without a memory,
memory is fallible
imagination: imagine waking up to discover that you had lost your memory
- defense against propaganda
- enriches our understanding of human nature
1. self-realizing expectations: beliefs which if held help to bring about fulfillment
2. primary source: an object or document produced at the time under study (written by someone who was there at the time): problems with primary sources: fallible eye witness, social bias, deliberate manipulation
3. secondary source: a second-hand account such as a history textbook, of a historical event
4. hindsight bias: mistakenly thinking, after something has happened, that you had known it would happen
5. bias: topic/ choice bias, confirmation bias, national bias
6. cubist history: history which explore the past from a variety of perspectives.
7. ‘great person’ theory of history: the belied that history is driven by great individuals
8. empathy: the ability to imagine and understand another person’s situation
9. economic determinism: determined by economic factors
This video uses the acronym CRAAP: Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose to explain how historians evaluate sources.
Use the following criteria (also known as the CRAAP test) to critically evaluate any source of information:
1) Currency: When was the information published, updated and/or revised? Is the information out-of-date for the topic?
2) Relevance (or Intended Audience): How much information is presented? Does it provide a superficial treatment, or a detailed analysis? Is the information related and relevant to your topic? Is the readership level appropriate, neither too simple nor too sophisticated?
3) Authority: Not all books or journals in an academic library are scholarly. Who are the authors and/or editors and what are their credentials? For journals, are articles peer-reviewed, that is, do they have the approval of other experts in the field? For books, are they published by scholarly presses, popular presses, or self-published?
4) Accuracy (and Verifiability): Does the source match your understanding of the topic? Can you verify the claims in other sources? Never rely on just one source. Is there a bibliography or list of works cited? What types of sources, and how many relevant sources, are cited? This is an indication of the depth of the author's knowledge.
5) Purpose (and Objectivity): Is the purpose stated? Is the subject approached from an objective standpoint? If not, what is the author's bias, and how might it influence the information presented? Be wary: there may be more than one perspective on any given issue.