Free Essay

History Is a Lie

In: Historical Events

Submitted By smanzar
Words 1397
Pages 6
François-Marie Arouet (21 November 1694 – 30 May 1778), also known as Voltaire, was a French writer, historian and philosopher who was famous for his political works. All his literary writings were famous, including plays, poems, novels, essays, historical and scientific works. His best-known histories are The Age of Louis XIV (1751), and his Essay on the Customs and the Spirit of the Nations (1756). He broke from the tradition of narrating political and military events, and emphasized traditions, societal history and achievements in the arts and sciences. One of his famous sayings, “History is the lie commonly agreed upon”, is quite contrary as some agree with it while others argue that that is not the case. Based on the analysis and readings I agree with what Voltaire said.
Some people associate history with past whereas history is not the same as past. As past is the occurrence of all the events even the minor ones while history is the selection of some events from the past which are then given meaning to by the historians. So what we study is not actually history but historiography (the writings of history). An example of which can be a person selling gingerbread man in a low lying area and some random people come to his stall and beat him up and kill him [1]. So the historians will not give importance to this event – which is definitely part of the past but it is not the part of written history.
At the same time history is majorly affected by the involvement of the role of power in its writing. History is always created by the winners. This means that the people who are on the winning end of any event will determine what the correct history will be. This can be seen with the example of Germany losing the World War I and their complete humiliation which directly lead to the rise of Hitler and in turn World War II. This implies that colonialists like the British are the ones who write the history and having all the power they make sure that its written just the way they want it to be. For example, the British colonizing the subcontinent, now when we read historical records, all of it can be seen in favour of the British and they claim that they conquered India as a part of the white mans burden and in order to spread their superior culture which was way higher than the inferior culture of the Subcontinent. When talking about the role of power in the writings of history some examples that really pop up can include that of the ‘Akbar-nama’. When the writer came to him he himself made him write it to ensure only those attributes and characteristics are mentioned which he wants the people to know about. Another example that can be taken into consideration is the fact that General Zia-ul-Haq when came to power changed the history textbooks completely, he tailored it according to his preferences.
Moreover, everyone’s truth is different, what might be the truth for one is not necessarily the truth for the other person as well. For example what was the truth for the Hindu Indians was not the truth for the Muslim Indians at the time of the War of Independence of 1857. Not only that but the opinions about the same war were very different when written by the British as compared to that written by the Indians in general. It is because of all the untouched and undiscovered information that we still have related to the past that we cannot decipher it all and reach to proper conclusions about something. One way that we can learn about history can be learning history from below. This includes learning the area history- history relating to certain areas that are not given as much importance for example the South-Asian history. In other words the history of the common people (no influence of power involved). Added to this will be the subaltern history, which means the history of the minorities of a region. For example, the history of the minority castes in India.
History is an ongoing discourse. One discourse leads to another and in turn engages it. This means that history is mainly an interpretation of the past events which in turn implies that history is a lie, because every historian’s interpretation of the same event is different. For instance a person who goes to a fish monger to buy fish, he then takes it home, from that time onwards it’s up to the person who he cooks and then serves it [2]. Same is the case when it comes to the historian and his facts. The facts are there, now it’s completely up to the historian as to how they interpret and make use of them. This can be a problem when searching for the truth as the interpretations does not match. When we take into consideration the Hiroshima and Nagasaki incident some historians claim it to be a bombing done on purpose while the others argue it to be a normal testing of an atomic bomb. On the other hand no one took into consideration that why were the lives of innocent people put in danger. Furthermore, the book 1984 by George Orwell puts further light on how power manipulates the opinions of ordinary people and how their lives are in turn affected. The way the Big Brother in the book takes control and makes sure that Winston does not do anything against him is actually how power works in reality as well. We see the common man coming into the pressure of those in power and giving up on their free will even in democratic countries. So in situations like that when not only the history and its writings are being manipulated but even the thoughts and perspectives of humans are being manipulated to their comforts, how can we expect to know the reality about past. [3]
History can be problematic in three main areas which include: epistemology, methodology and ideology. In epistemology they are concerned mainly about the objectivity of history and are always in the search of truth but in history discovering the truth is very difficult so this is where the problem arises. As the past is gone and there is no way that they can be checked against except the accounts of other historians which are their interpretations. On the other hand they can be checked against the oral sources which many of the historians do not take into consideration as they consider them to be not as reliable as the written/documented sources. At the same time historians are faced with problems in the fields of methodology and ideology.
Many a times when we give some event of history an overview, it does appear to be true, but once we go into the depth and excavate minute details we may not know what actually happened and what not. For example we know for a fact that World War I and II did take place when we go into the details of all the events that happened or not, there might be many meager events missed out as some historians might not consider it important.
To conclude all I would like to say is that in my opinion history is a lie commonly agreed upon. This is because we can never know the truth as the past is gone. All we have is the interpretations. History is an ongoing discourse. One leads to another, hence it’s a maze which never leads us to the truth majority of the times. For instance when looking at a landscape put of a window the historian may see it very differently as compared to a geologist, sociologist and so on. Also, the facts cannot and do not speak for themselves, instead they are given voice by the historians who decide to use those facts according to their context. So the same fact might be viewed upon differently by each historian. Facts are more like the play dough that is moulded and sculptured in any shape or form as liked by the historian. Many of the historians will have different viewpoints regarding the same issue, which means that there is no road in history that leads you to the truth.

Similar Documents

Premium Essay

The Ways We Lie Essay

...article The Ways We Lie by Stephanie Ericsson, goes hand in hand with Oceania. A country falling to corruption, false patriotism, and absolutely no privacy, Orwell’s 1984 encompasses what can happen when a government gains too much power and deceives their people. Omission: Ericsson’s article explains omissions as a story with major details left out, that changes the story completely. Omissions present themselves throughout Orwell’s 1984, for example, the party tells the story of their country, yet they leave out key details that alter the outcome of the story. Orwell explains, “If all others accepted the lie which the party imposed-if all records told the same tale-then the lie passed into history and became truth” (Orwell...

Words: 510 - Pages: 3

Free Essay

Living in Ancient Egypt at Thebes in 2000 B.C.

...I think we (The American People) have amnesia when it comes to history. We often forget about the past and we very rarely apply what we have learned to future decisions. There are individuals who use their past mistakes as education building blocks. This is true on an individual basis more so than a country basis. When the American people think, they think only of themselves and what’s in it for them. They want it now and not later, they’re not willing to wait. When a politician comes along with charisma and charm and offers change, the American people are quick to believe a lie. Because they think of how it will make life easier for themselves often disregarding their Christian values and the consequences the candidate’s policies will have on America. An example of this type of dictator socialist style president can be recognized by studying the history of how Germany came to power under Hitler. Germany's economy was in disarray and shambles but the Rhetoric of an evil leader in Hitler, was believed by Ungodly or ignorant men. Women and young people. These are the people that brought Hitler to power. The same scenario took place with the Election of Obama in both terms. And we see his socialist style of leadership today. Often disregarding the constitution of our United States of America and pushing his own agenda through the powers of executive orders and the corrupt Supreme Court.  God is slowly lifting his Grace from America we see it every day. But there is always hope through...

Words: 960 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

Personal Integrity In The Crucible

...Personal integrity is a theme that is present all throughout history, in everything from literature to actual historical events. It takes strong character to uphold the ideals of personal integrity; to stand up against all things that are not morally right, regardless of the consequences. Most people simply break under the pressure to lead a life that is safe, however immoral. These people choose to take the easy road out. They choose to ignore what is morally right in an attempt to fit in with the crowd. They do what is easy, not what is right. However, some people have that strong character which allows them to go against the masses and pursue moral truth and justice always. This describes the theme of personal integrity: a theme which is present in the play The Crucible, historical events such as the McCarthyism era, and religion. In the Salem witch trials of the play The Crucible, the theme of personal integrity plays a huge role. Many townspeople are falsely accused of trafficking with the devil. If they admit to this horrific crime, their lives will be spared. However, if they refuse to admit to the lie, therefore displaying personal integrity, they will instead be sentenced to death. This is clearly a difficult decision to make, with the only options being to lie and live or to tell the truth and...

Words: 892 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

Native Guard Tretheway

...Mr. Randolph Engl. 210 9/21/12 Tainted History in Natasha Tretheway’s Native Guard Passion, precision, and technique are all synonyms used to describe Natasha Tretheway’s Native Guard that take the reader through the heart of the south and the heart of the family. This essay will examine the contradictions of (African) American life, especially concerning themes of history and memory. “Southern History”, “Incident”, and “South” will demonstrate these contradictions of (African) American history and memory. Serving as a scribe, Tretheway writes these poems for those people history has muted and closed the veil on. Southern History, Incident, and South; poems from section two of her book, depict racism during slavery and the Civil War, which is a part of forgotten history in the eyes of “Americans.” These historic experiences have not been given the proper examination, discussion, or acknowledgement. Tretheway refuses to allow African American history to remain as footnotes and brings out the real “American” history in her collection of poems. Tretheway’s personal experience growing up as a mulatto in the South is seen in her poem “Southern History”. This poem shows that even after more than a hundred years after the Civil War, history is still tainted. History is imperfect and at times intentionally false as textbooks in this time period were used to misinform students; keeping them bound and restricted from the real history of America. As Tretheway’s teacher presents...

Words: 1280 - Pages: 6

Premium Essay

Leadership Style of Ricardo Semler

...Adejumoke Olaniyan DR Kolawole Sonaike Healthcare Leadership and Management (HCM618 -1601 -HDFSN) February 6 2016 Discussion Questions 1. Evaluate this situation from the view point of David Edmondson’s ethical leadership. What could Radio Shack have done differently? In this world some people crave money and power. To benefit these two things always, people choose the wrong paths. David Edmondson is one of them, because he cheated on his resume. David Edmondson is a fraud that means he is not an ethical leader at all. Because of Edmondson’s cheating his company RadioShack faced losses, so he didn’t do ethical leadership in his workplace. If a manager cheats, lies, steals, manipulates, take advantages of situations, or treat others unfairly that is not an ethical behavior. That is called unethical behavior. We can see lying on David Edmondson’s case, so we can say that he didn’t behave as an ethical leader. According to the text, “Ethical leadership is known as our core values and having the courage to live them in all parts of our life in service of the common good.” Before entering to a company a manager should know what is ethical leadership. If a manager doesn’t know what ethical leadership is, then he/she will never fulfill their job properly. If a manager doesn’t have knowledge about ethical leadership, then he will do unethical things in a company. Also, unethical leadership can create many problems, such as ethical lapses...

Words: 1252 - Pages: 6

Premium Essay

Personal Narrative: My Life In Middle School

...During my middle school, it appeared as if I were hiding behind a mask. When I was at home I was a diverse self who was confident and had an attitude. Whereas on the other hand, at school, I was trying to be someone who can fit in, but it seemed like the more I attempted the more it didn’t work. The only way I thought I could achieve friendship was by lying about my history. Humans are inescapable to lie at some point in their life. Although I didn’t know that my lies were going to only haunt me back at some point and eventually change me into a different person. I was twelve years old when I moved to the United States from India. Everything was different such as the people, the surrounding, but mostly the accent. For the first six months...

Words: 784 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

Cheating Exam

...honor code states "A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do." This was by far the largest violation of the honor code in West Point history and presented some unusual challenges to the administration. As the year dragged on it was found that more and more students possibly had cheated on the assignment and was also becoming a public relations nightmare in the press and internally to the Army branch of the United States military.   April of 1976 it was found that there was a possibility that over half of the junior class at West Point Academy had violated the West Point honor code by cheating on a case assignment. The honor code states "A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do." This was by far the largest violation of the honor code in West Point history and presented some unusual challenges to the administration. As the year dragged on it was found that more and more students possibly had cheated on the assignment and was also becoming a public relations nightmare in the press and internally to the Army branch of the United States military.   April of 1976 it was found that there was a possibility that over half of the junior class at West Point Academy had violated the West Point honor code by cheating on a case assignment. The honor code states "A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do." This was by far the largest violation of the honor code in West Point history and presented some unusual challenges...

Words: 350 - Pages: 2

Free Essay

Lying Saints

...Mrs. Zinsitz English II GT - 3 22 September 2014 Lying Saints Throughout history and across the world lies have been told, whether it be a simple “white” lie, or the largest lie ever told. Some philosophers even say it’s impossible for humans not to lie. A lie is a false statement made to deliberately deceive the person, or persons to which it is told. Lies and deception take common place in today’s society; An everyday necessity in order to keep society functioning at it’s fullest potential, yet people insist the benefits of lying such as protecting yourself, the nation, or a large number of people the cannot rectify immorality of the lie itself. We as a society lie or deceive generally to protect ourselves from a perceived threat. Oddly though, all of my life, I have been told “Lying is always wrong.” or “There is a never a right time to lie.” yet everybody still seems to participate in this social voodoo. Now of course, I do too, albeit with good intentions of course. For example, when I was much younger, a salesman came to my door. Being young and naive, I answered the door without thinking too much about it. I was home alone at the time and when the salesman asked if my parents were home I said yes, but were on the phone and couldn’t talk. The man looked shocked, and hurriedly left. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I now realize what consequences telling the truth could have held. I had to lie in that moment as it was for my own safety. The salesman, 
 Goedjen 2...

Words: 878 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

A Disappointed California

...A Disappointed California, Which Tells Lie Everyone has his own dream. What is a dream for you? Does it come true for you? I believe that every person’s dream is to get better lives such as better cars, opportunities, and education in the life. People move one place to another place to get better lives as their dreams. Most of people think that America is the best place in the world, especially California. Some peoples’ hopes become true but many hopes do not come true. Some are upper class people who have their own business in their own country and their lives totally change to employee when they come to California. They have no chance not to come to California. So they have to leave their business and come to California. California provides the dream of having a better life. In contract, California is a lie and disappointed place for people whom immigrate to California because many things make people’s history disappear, people about segregation and have short lives by Americans and people have poor lives in California. History is vey important for every nationality. Everyone should know about his/her background and country history. But now most of children have lack of their own history. It is really disappointed for grandparents and parents. Many Vietnamese people immigrate and build a new life in the United States during the Vietnam War. The reason people from Vietnam run to the United States was if they continued living in Vietnam, they had less chance to survive in their...

Words: 1848 - Pages: 8

Premium Essay

How Does George Orwell Present Power In 1984

...Throughout time, history has been written by the victors. In 1984 by George Orwell, the Party is the victor and holds power over the citizens of Oceania. Power can be used in many ways, some of which include the manipulation of history, as an objective view cannot exist due to bias. “Objective” accounts and “accurate” figures can be falsified. History can be written, erased, and rewritten to suit those in positions of power. In 1984, the Party controls history through the manipulation of memory with “reality control” or in Newspeak, “doublethink”. By controlling memory, they are able to control the past by manipulating the Party members into thinking that something happened, even though it may not have, and vice versa. In Oceania, Newspeak is the official language. It is a language that is very vague as it is abbreviated and is the “only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year” (Orwell 52). Newspeak’s diminishing vocabulary causes it to become vaguer and vaguer, and narrows the range of thought. According to Syme, “every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word”, this indicates that when information is given by the Party, it can easily be...

Words: 1223 - Pages: 5

Free Essay

The History

...Engelsk Grammatik §35 4. Let's hope Geri does better than Britney, whose marriage ended in a divorce (Det er "whose" i stedet for ”which” da which er om en ikke-person) Engelsk Grammatik §78 5. 14 months after Mel tried the knot with Jimmy, the relationship was in tatters (Der skal ikke være omvendt ordstilling, så ”was” kommer foran ” relationship”) Engelsk Grammatik §196 6. History shows that violent protests lead to repression. (Der skal ikke være “the” før “history”, da det ikke er en historie, men historien om.) B: 1. I have never laid eyes on them before.
 2. She had lain awake, filled with worry about what would happen in the morning.
 3. He laid on the floor and looked into the garden.
 4. She was still laughing softly as she laid the phone down.
 5. The seeds had lain in the ground for many months before beginning to sprout.
 6. Will you help me lie the table?
 7. The open land by the river had lain uncultivated for centuries.
 8. Lie flat on your back, bend your knees, and then raise your back.
 9. She took off her hat and laid it on the shelf.
 10. He would lie on the floor, shouting, screaming and banging his feet....

Words: 324 - Pages: 2

Premium Essay

The Red Scare In The Crucible

...confusing time in early American history. It all started from people spreading rumors about witches that scared civilians in Salem. These rumors costed hundreds of people's lives just because the accused people lied to save their life but put others lives in danger. A time in history that is compared to the Salem witch trails is the red scare where the same incident happened but innocent civilians were accused of being Russian spy's because the United States was scared of communism at the time. Henry Popkin's article showed this relationship between the two famous events in American history that changed America forever. 2. Body "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller was very interesting,...

Words: 991 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

Ethics Essay

...practice of ethics that shape how those decisions are made. In this essay virtual, utilitarianism and deontological theoretical ethical theories will be defined and compared. Virtue Ethics In the Basic Ethics textbook (Boylan, 2009), virtue ethics is defined as “taking the viewpoint that in living your life you should try to cultivate excellence in all that you do and all that others do. These excellences or virtues are both moral and non-moral. For instance, this principle takes the long look at one’s character and is somewhat forgiving of an occasional slipup that is not in consonance with that person’s historical character.” Thus, for instance, people who lied occasionally were not necessarily immoral or bad people if they did not lie regularly. These lies are especially acceptable for instance if the person only lies in order to protect another person’s safety or feelings. Utilitarianism Meanwhile, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Driver, 2009) explains that “utilitarianism is generally held to be the view that the morally right action is the action that produces the most good. One thing to note is that the theory is a form of consequentialism: the right action is understood entirely in terms of consequences produced. On the utilitarian view one ought to maximize the overall good — that is, consider the good of others as well as one's own good.” In the practice of the utilitarianism principle one might assert that lies could be to destructive if left up to the individuals...

Words: 680 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Holden Caulfield Strengths

...Holden Caufield is the main character from J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is unlike the other students at Pencey. His views and actions are unique, which results in him having many strengths and weaknesses, as a person and as a student. Some of Holden’s strengths include having a creative mind & having urban skill. Holden also has some weaknesses which include criticizing the world and others & having a tendency to lie frequently. One of Holden’s strength is his creativity and how he is able to develop unique pieces of writing. In the text, Holden was supposed to write a descriptive piece for his roommate Stradlater. The final result is a story about his brother, Allie’s baseball glove. Holden gave great detail about the glove and...

Words: 423 - Pages: 2

Premium Essay

The Ways We Lie Analysis

...When someone tells the truth, are they telling a lie? According to Stephanie Ericsson’s essay, “The Ways We Lie,” Ericsson states, “We lie. We all do. We exaggerate, we minimize, we avoid confrontation, we spare people’s feelings, we conveniently forget, we keep secrets, we justify lying to the big-guy institutes” (Ericsson Paragraph 3). In today’s world, people lie. I believe that what Ericsson has said about lying and the ways we do it is absolutely true. In the play, “The Crucible,” people lied about witchcraft. In real life, different people lie about different things. In society, like the 2016 Presidential Nominees, they lie about many things so they can get your vote in November. Arthur Miller, author of “The Crucible,” based many of...

Words: 755 - Pages: 4