Blog Post 1U
Carl Becker’s “What are Historical Facts” briefly begins to explore the role of facts in society as a platform to launch the idea that they serve as ‘a mere convenience’ to society, and historical facts are no exception. Moreover Becker argues that there are always a multitude of contextual details surrounding every fact, but these neatly wrapped packages are presented so singularly that neighboring details are treated as additional details rather than necessary context. To illustrate his point, Becker presents commonly known historical facts to his audience, such as Caesar crossing the Rubicon or Lincoln’s assassination, and quickly revisits these facts with additional background information. Becker acknowledges that historical facts are a necessary component of historical analysis, but also argues that to simply accept that an event or an idea can be chained to a few numbers or words is to ignore the remaining people and places who made the fact a reality to begin with. Such action would be equivalent to society believing that an Oscar-winning actor or actress was truly the sole force responsible for making a film happen. Ignoring the director, supporting characters, and production crew is analogous to people ignoring the hundreds of soldiers following Caesar across the Rubicon, or ignoring the Civil War as the backdrop of Lincoln’s assassination. By re-exploring well known historical facts, Becker is able to successfully illustrate to his audience that the reality of facts is that they are not as cut and dry as many would believe them to be, but rather products of convenience and the succinct version of what will generally be a more complex subject.
Becker, Carl . “What are Historical Facts?” The Western Political Quarterly 8, no. 3 (Sept. & oct. 1955): 327-40.
Word Count: 268