I was reading a book on Rethinking History by the post-modern Historian Jenkins. The book brings out Philosophical perspectives on the writing of History that is Historiography.
In the first part of the book he faithfully tries to define what History is and his definition is that History is a discourse. Then proceeds to break down History into an ideology, methodology and epistemology. He laments that History taught in schools does not incorporate post modern History and its multiple perspectives.
First of all I would like to say that the term History is a misnomer and should be a discipline that embodies Histories. The term History if used would be logo-centric and rooted in a Western Historical paradigm. There are many Histories circulating today such as black History, Counter Culture, and Feminist History and so on.
The writing of History can never be objective. Facts are interpreted by Historians as ideological sutures. Old facts can be presented in new-light as the Historiography of writing. For example there are very little studies on the plight of the feminine gender in Nazi Germany. The harsh treatment of Germany after the defeat of World War One can be seen empathically as a cause for the rise of Nazi fanaticism. A Marxian would treat Histories as class struggle. Ideological positions have to be deconstructed. For example Marxism as a grand narrative when put into application in Soviet Russia failed bitterly. Queer history deconstructs the ideology of gender and relationships to sex. Historical text books should include multiple narratives. For example: a soldier’s diary entry. The narratives made by a Nazi mother are some examples. History taught in schools is one dimensional. The school text books should incorporate multiple narratives.
When encountering the methodology of one can’t be typically objective, neutral and scientific. How can we narrate a black mother being raped by a white? If she writes a poem about it, is it not a part of a Black culture that’s repressed. For example if we look at present day Hong Kong we see a positive impact of it as British Colonization. The British colonizers worked hard with merit to make Hong Kong now under China as prosperous nation. The poverty of India after Independence has been worse than it was during the British regime.
Now what is History as a discourse? A discourse is a narrative, an extended explanation of something. In a Historical discourse the past is explored and evidence collected and put into interpretations. For example Hitler’s Mein Kamp and Diary of Annie Frank are both discourses, one which promotes the racial pride and superiority of the race and the other the struggles encountered by a girl during the second world war. The ontology of political consciousness becomes a discourse where people represent History with multiple points of view.
History as an epistemology should encompass multiple narratives into its literary mold. For example I would have to read Toni Morrison, if I am writing a historiography of Black Women. Epistemology has to place its roots in the ontological structure of consciousness. Re-interpreting History should have the ontological structure of poetry, a fiction.