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Posted: September 4th, 2023

Part 1: Jenkins argues that historians face three limitations

Part 1: Jenkins argues that historians face three limitations when studying the past. Define and give an example of each of these three limitations.

Part 2: Explain Jenkins’ main argument in this chapter. What are the advantages of Jenkin’s interpretation of history? Are there any disadvantages?

In order to receive full credit for this discussion board post, you must paraphrase Jenkins at least twice. That is, summarize what he is saying in your own words. You must also include at least two direct quotations from the Jenkins reading. Whether you are paraphrasing or quoting, you must include an in-text MLA citation.

For example: According to Jenkins, the question “what is history” should be rephrased, “who is history for” (Jenkins 9).

Your response should have at least 4 in-text citations: two for paraphrasing, and two for quotes.

Part 1:
In his book “What Is History?” E.H. Carr, a historian, argued that historians face three primary limitations when studying the past. These limitations include the selectivity of historical facts, the subjective nature of interpretation, and the influence of present perspectives.

Selectivity of historical facts: Historians are limited by the selectivity of available historical facts, meaning they can only work with the evidence that has survived over time. Carr states, “What happened is not the same as what we know or think we know about what happened” (Jenkins, p. 19). For example, historical records may be incomplete or biased, leading to gaps in our understanding of certain events or perspectives.

Subjective nature of interpretation: Historians interpret the past through their own subjective lens, influenced by their cultural, social, and personal backgrounds. Jenkins explains that “historians are prisoners of their own experience and perspective, which shape their interpretation of historical events” (Jenkins, p. 21). For instance, different historians may provide contrasting interpretations of the same historical event based on their ideological or theoretical frameworks.

Influence of present perspectives: Historians are inevitably influenced by the context in which they live, which can impact their understanding and portrayal of the past. Jenkins argues that “the present shapes our understanding of the past, and our view of the past is not neutral or objective” (Jenkins, p. 24). For instance, contemporary concerns, political climate, or cultural trends can influence the emphasis placed on certain aspects of history while overlooking others.

Part 2:
Jenkins’ main argument in this chapter is that history is not a fixed and objective account of the past, but rather a subjective and constantly evolving interpretation. He emphasizes the limitations faced by historians and challenges the notion of a single “truth” in history. According to Jenkins, “History is not a definitive account of the past, but a selective interpretation of it” (Jenkins, p. 27).

One advantage of Jenkins’ interpretation of history is that it promotes a critical awareness of the limitations and biases inherent in historical studies. By acknowledging the selectivity, subjectivity, and present influences, historians can strive for a more nuanced understanding of the past. This approach encourages a broader perspective that incorporates diverse voices and multiple interpretations, fostering a more inclusive and comprehensive understanding of history.

However, a disadvantage of Jenkins’ perspective is that it can lead to relativism and skepticism, undermining the idea of historical truth altogether. While recognizing the subjective nature of history is important, completely disregarding the pursuit of objective knowledge can diminish the significance of historical research and erode public trust in historical narratives.

In summary, Jenkins argues that historians face limitations in dealing with the selectivity of historical facts, the subjective nature of interpretation, and the influence of present perspectives. His interpretation of history highlights the importance of critical awareness, multiple perspectives, and inclusivity in historical studies. While this approach has advantages in promoting a nuanced understanding, it also runs the risk of undermining the pursuit of objective knowledge.

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