Herodutus has been called the ‘Father of History’. His role was to preserve the heroic deeds of the Greeks for future generations so that they would not be forgotten but glorified. These stories have become the basis of historical narrative capturing some of the extraordinary events of the past (Arendt,1958).
Marwick (1981) stated that Herodotus’ ‘Histories’ were intended to be read aloud to an audience and, in this way, to be shared and passed down for prosperity as a record of the past. Carr (1961) describes the facts of history as fish not on a slab at the fishmongers but swimming in vast ocean waiting for a historian to catch them, he makes the decision to select some and leave others. Tosh (1984) maintains that the main task of a historian is to examine why people acted as they did, by stepping into their shoes and seeing the world through their eyes.
During the nineteenth century, natural scientists believed in absolute objectivity and precision, without interference, discrimination or emotion (Arendt, 1958). However, the historical process of selecting facts is by nature one of intervention and partiality. What is important, is that a degree of objectivity is expected of the historian (Ricoeur, 1965). Arendt argued that ‘human essence … the essence of who somebody is – can come into being only when life departs, leaving behind nothing but a story … Even Achilles … remains dependent upon a storyteller, poet, or historian, without whom everything he did remains futile.’ (Arendt, 1958:p.97)
Collingwood (1956) maintained that history is relived with each interpretation and as a human this is how we learn to understand and relate to the past. Tosh (1984) stated that all humans have a sense of the past and that in turn provides us with a sense of identity and strengthens our beliefs. Our innate sense of the past, to a greater or lesser extent, inextricably links us with our collective history. The historian, by retelling stories from the past, can develop and cement our relationship with history:
‘The historical world is always there… and the individual not only observes it from the outside but is intertwined with it.’ (Dilthey, 1883: p59)
As History teachers we need to engage our pupils in the story as this will hold their attention and provide them with an ongoing sense of the past. It can been theorised that stories can engage students, stimulating them further in the subject matter and enabling them to be more actively engaged in the learning process (Cox, 1998). Wilkinson, 2006, argues that stories are a vital learning tool for students; they provide a sense of the period of history and the issues that were faced at that time. Stories can create an opportunity to provide further depth to the characters and events. Arendt (1958) claims that the storytellers creates history by narration and it is this temporal distance that allows more interpretation of the events and characters involved; the storyteller is able to ‘tell us more about their subjects, the hero in the centre of each story, than any product of human hands ever tells us about the master who produced it’ (Arendt, 1958, p.184).
Narrative is an integral part of a human’s whole being and Carr (1961) believes that each individual story is part of a much bigger picture, a community of stories which create the past, present and the future where group narrative is central to the history of mankind. Michel de Certeau (1984) suggests the telling of history through stories allows the listener to travel into the past and that the main role of the historian is to see the world through the eyes of those in history, bringing these events to those in the present.
As with a museum visit, pupils do not generally enter the classroom with a blank sheet, their minds have often experienced some interaction with historical experience and knowledge, knowledge of lived experiences (Certeau, 2011). Education is not ‘pouring knowledge into the psyche, as if it were some empty container… in the contrary real education lays hold of the soul itself and transforms it in its entirety.’ (Heidegger,1998,p.167).
People try to make sense of their everyday lives and experiences by constructing narratives and creating meaning from these stories which might suggest that fiction and history are quasi-identical. EH Carr (1961) goes onto considers that all history can be seen as contemporary as past events are viewed through one’s own experiences and stories and events of the past are intertwined with the consciousness of the present.
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