Schools of Thought
People always wanted to know what has happened in the past. Still, unlike the general public, historians are expected to take this subject seriously, try to avoid biases and be intellectually honest. I totally support such idea as I believe that only well-grounded conclusions that are based on evidence can be used as a source of authoritative information about some period of time.
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Clusters of historical interpretations can be clearly visible when studying the works of various historians. They are known as schools of thought that represent particular ideas about history. Professionals can belong to one or several schools depending on their ideas.
Representatives of the cyclical school of thought believe that there is no progress in history. In this way, ancient philosophers and Mesoamerican civilizations believed that it repeats over time. Some historians of the Renaissance and modern times also have such views (Petrarch and Toynbee, for example).
Another idea was presented by the linear school (St. Augustine, Voltaire, Karl Marx). They claimed that the world changes, and it can become better. In this framework, idealism is discussed, as it focuses on improvement. Liberalism can be also referred to because it is based on the concept of progress.
Great Man & Everyman Theories
Some historians believe that powerful individuals can determine history as they make important events occur. They represent the great man theory, opposition to which is the everyman theory. According to it, the actions of many ordinary people influence the course of history. Mainly, anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists support such idea.
Great Ideas – Philosophic History
There are also professionals who believe that history is moving forward as it is pushed by changing ideas (Hegel and Marks). Determinists state that such progress is targeted at a particular goal (to Communism, for example).
Geographic – Geopolitical Theory
Kant and Mackinder were among historians who saw geographical location as the main trigger of history. They believed that the landscape and environment make individuals need particular things and do something to reach them.
Ecological History & Ecofeminism
Ecological determination and feminism ideas are considered mostly by historians of the 21st century including Jones and Eisler. They are willing to alter people’s minds and their way of thinking.
Representatives of this school agree with Nietzsche’s ideas and are often treated with hostile attitude by other historians. They claim that they can only interpret some invents but cannot state all their ideas as facts. Deconstructionist views are often discussed along with this theory. They are sure that it is impossible to describe truth with the help of language, which presupposes that historical facts can also be questioned. Such opposition to traditional views does not appeal to the majority of professionals. Among the representatives of this theory are Michel Foucault and John Ralston, who shared their opinion with others showing their hostility.
The views of postmodernists concerned many professionals, as they tend to make history a biased collection of opinions about past events. Keith Windschuttle presented work, in which he tried to prove that critics are too severe in their assessment. He states that professionals are looking for true facts and they change their views if evidence shows that their position is wrong. It proves that only thoroughly investigated ideas reach the general public.
Of course, the opinions of all historians and critics are valuable, as they provide an opportunity to consider past events from different points of view and find the truth. It is critical to base history on some facts that can support it so that no doubts regarding the authoritativeness of information occur.
Personally I believe that each view on theory has a right to exist. Opposite views that are not commonly accepted cannot be debunked only because they are extraordinary. In this way, we would still believe that the Earth is flat. It is rather hard to choose only one theory that can explain how the course of history is determined.
Even historians often supported a couple of them. Thus, I believe that it might be advantageous if we mix all approaches to describe a particular situation. People live in a complex environment and are influenced by a range of factors, and the same can be said about historical events. It is critical to investigate not only one particular aspect but a set of them. For example, we should consider he influence of environment on people and the actions of both ordinary and powerful populations on one event to see the whole situation. It is also a great way to avoid biases and cope with critics.
Ideas presented by postmodernists seem to be the most contradictory, as oppose to all previously accepted views on history. Still, I believe that they should not be denied. As we were not in the center of the action, we can only interpret the information gained from various sources. However, when this interpretation is well-grounded, it can be performed as true historical facts. I believe that criticism is good when it is controlled. Opposition make professionals do their best to support their opinion with evidence.