How do we know what we know about the past?

People have found many different ways of interpreting and retrieving information from the past. Historians have to search through written accounts, old pictures, artwork, religious texts, physical evidence and more to get a somewhat understandable answer. People have had to use so many different types of record because the information was all recorded differently.

Texts are a very common tool that historians use as they can often be deciphered by just a translation, however it is also true that writing will almost always have a bias to it. For instance, if you only read about Alexander Hamilton from Aaron Burr’s perspective and work, you would start to experience his bias and dislike of Hamilton. This is important in all accounts of retrieving information as bias is a huge problem to work around.

Artwork is often looked into when looking into history, as art is an expression of the artist’s feelings. Artist’s recording their feelings and styles can give insight of the opinions, mannerisms, and everyday routine of everyday people during their time.

Photographs are used because photos are a picture of what actually happened, however these are generally only used for fairly recent history as photos haven’t always been around.

Religious texts are often not considered as a historical tool as they are collections of stories, whether true or not. However, it is common to observe overlap between different texts, as an example many religions have a story of a great flood that killed a huge amount of people. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that some deity caused it, it is very likely that a flood occurred at some time in history and based on how long the stories have been around you can judge a time frame for this event.

Physical evidence often requires inferences but can be used to support and create new ideas and theories. A perfect example of this are the skeletons of the dinosaurs.

There are many different ways to collect evidence, but it is important that there is a balance between the types used.