How accurate do you think history is?

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kittenkat    pirate
12/10/2012 at 06:22

And where do you think we've got it really wrong?

12/10/2012 at 06:58

Its accurate until Hollywood makes a film about it. Ignoring it.

12/10/2012 at 07:27

This is what you think about at 06:22?

12/10/2012 at 07:35
RicF wrote (see)

Its accurate until Hollywood makes a film about it. Ignoring it.

Completely agree with this (think: Saving Private Ryan).

When I studied history at Uni and throughout this time - I learnt some valuable lessons:

- History has been written by the victors throughout history. You'll never find a level headed history of the battle of the roses, agincourt. Anything before the French Revolution isn't really "reliable" but at least it's a written history.

- It's been those who can 'afford' to tell their history for where it'll be remembered. An example of this was the Holocaust. For several reasons the persecution of Gypsies, Homosexuals, Political Prisoners is almost omitted from every 'new' telling of history (e.g. films).

To an extent we need museums/people to keep the 'recent' history alive and correct but it'll be hard as there's no money there.

12/10/2012 at 08:33
The Germans really won WW2 and just changed the brand to the Common Market/EU. They are about to annexe Greece, Italy and Spain but we might draw the line if they have a go at Poland.
12/10/2012 at 09:51

+1 for ex-History Students on here. Most important thing for me is Oral History.  Getting the stories/anecdotes recorded before those that were there are no longer here.

"Where do you think we got it really wrong?" - sad to say, but the whole Middle East shebang is actually our fault

12/10/2012 at 09:54

usually find numbers are vastly exaggerated in anything especially battles and the likes. Now recent history, say within the las 150-200 years I think its pretty spot on because we hear about the common people, they had the facilities to document events themselves and not spin it to please a government etc. However what makes me chuckle I was watching something about Celts the other day. An Archaeologist had dug up something that was shaped like a hand mirror. He said ooo I think its what these people used it to look in to the after world. I thought they may have played ping pong with it. I expect I am closer to the truth. Unfortunately a lot of it is guess work. ESPECIALLY if the yanks make a film about it (google U571)

12/10/2012 at 10:15

+1 to what Emmy said. When I studied history we were always told to keep the source of the reference in mind, to be aware of bias even in what might appear to be an unbiased account.

I don't look to Hollywood for historical accuracy, its just about entertainment isn't it? I'd rather watch a really good film that sexed up history a bit than a slavish adaptation that was deadly dull, and sometimes the way the story is told can also be informative, e.g. what does it tell us about the political landscape now if these events are portrayed in a certain way ...

12/10/2012 at 11:30

The important thing to remember is that even at the very first, oral level, all history is mediated - which means everything is tainted consciously or unconsciously by the viewpoints of the person telling it.

12/10/2012 at 11:30

The Vicar.. surely you mean Whiff-whaff.

12/10/2012 at 11:56

"anyone who claims to know the truth is not in full possession of the facts"~ma grandfather.

12/10/2012 at 12:10
xine267 wrote (see)

I don't look to Hollywood for historical accuracy, its just about entertainment isn't it?


But you're a mature, intelligent, level-headed human being. 

When I was too young to understand American history, I thought that cowboys were goodies and Indians were baddies.  (And that it was perfectly acceptable to settle an argument by standing fifty paces from the person you were arguing with and see who had the quickest draw to kill the other person dead.  )

How many, er, not so well-read adult persons still take their actual world-view from what Hollywood tells them, either wholesale or more subtly?  Pearl Harbour, Arab terrorists, East European megalomaniacs, conspiracy theories, Jesus being a white guy, the world being single-handedly saved by Will Smith again...

Jon Snow made an interesting point about modern history the other day on the telly.  With today's technology, more first-hand recording of events takes place, which ought to mean greater scope for more accurate "history" in the future.  On the other hand, with the excess of information available, does this simply make it even easier to present events according to one's views, by being selective with the information?

Edited: 12/10/2012 at 12:11
12/10/2012 at 12:53

Haha, well maybe on a good day

When I was 6,  The Worst Witch had me utterly convinced that you could buy flying broomsticks. I remember badgering my dad to get me one from B&Q ... those well known supplers of magical equipment  

I agree with you completely, but who should be in charge of deciding how events are represented in films, theatre, books and tv shows? I think once we start going down that road it starts to turn into a level of censorship that I'm not very comfortable with. (Bloody liberals, eh?  )

12/10/2012 at 13:00

Barkles funny you should say that as I was going to put Whiff waff. Agree Phil you only have to talk to people who watch Eastenders and think its real life

12/10/2012 at 13:13

Lots of good points above.

I'm a history graduate and I think the most important thing to remember is that just because something is in the past it doesn't mean that it isn't open to revision and that can happen for many reasons - discovery of documents or artefacts that were previously lost, changes in attitude and culture, the opportunity to re-evaluate events in the light of the "losers" rather than the "winners" and, as Xine says, simply going back to the source material, all help to present more truthful history but there will always be inaccuracies at best and gaps at worst. 

A good example is the Mutiny on the Bounty where, for centuries, Fletcher Christian was presented as the hero and Bligh the villain, largely because Christian was well-connected and had influential friends who could stand up for him and Bligh didn't. The truth turns out to be more complex when you look at their lives as a whole.   

Vicar: the reason numbers are often grossly inflated is that people were largely innumerate. A large number was often just an attempt to convey scale  - hence the great ages quoted in the old testament.

12/10/2012 at 13:17

By the time you read this it will be history…

12/10/2012 at 13:47

Screamapillar. Yes. Sorry I'll drop the religion bomb quickly. That's why 40 is used an awful lot deemed as being a large amount. 40 days and 40 nights. 40 years in the wilderness etc. Noah was 950 when he died. Now we know that isn't true but they exaggerated numbers to show how wise he was as wise people apparently lived a long time But what I meant was battle numbers get massively exaggerated on nearly all accounts, but as you said this may be down to numeracy skills or trying to big it all up a bit and make it more grand than it was.

12/10/2012 at 15:56

all i know is we dont learn from history, and keep repeating the same mistakes. Still i believe in the majority of people being good.

12/10/2012 at 16:56

Battle casualties may be exagerrated at the time to big up the winning side (they lost 1,000 to our 10) but often inaccuracy stems from confusion too. 

And more reliable figures are usually compiled after the event, both with regard to those that happened long ago and in the age of more recent mechanised warfare so I'm not sure that sort of exaggeration often gets accepted as historical "fact" - at least not permanently.

12/10/2012 at 17:46
Wild exagerations of numbers can be more recent and done deliberately. E.g the Nazis during the war and communists and neo Nazis after the war inflated the number of dead during the Dresden bombing by a factor of ten at the most extreme.
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