Why is interpretation an integral aspect of the definition of history?In other words, why is history often defined as the "interpretative" study of recorded facts of human beings and societies?

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The study of history is in many ways a deciphering, a making sense of the larger actions (wars, migrations, changes in power structures, etc.) from examining smaller incidents and specific recorded (or deduced) acts.  This requires “interpretation”—that is, the modern historian must look at the historical event and “translate” it into its modern equivalent.  For example, if the historian talks of a “war,” that term must be separated from the meaning in modern warfare and interpreted in context.  There are few fortifications, castles, etc. that would have been able to withstand air attacks, for example, so when a historian discusses the feudal system, he must “interpret” the relation of the serfs to the royalty as protective.  History is always “revisionist” history, according to many historians, because they must constantly revise their interpretation of events based on new evidence (or on the decay of previous evidence).  The contemporary historian (say the French chronicler Froissart or the English chronicler Holingshead) had to “interpret” the events of their day into patterns of change or rhythms of tradition.  Thus, for all historians, making sense of the documents and artifacts of the past means interpreting them into the social/political present.  We can understand a historian’s account if he/she uses “interpretation” skills well.

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