Studying and Constructing History: A Historian’s Take, pp. 7 of 7


[i] This was brought home starkly to me during a recent focus group discussion with groups of lower secondary students who, when asked why history is important, answered with phrases such as “history helps us understand our ancestors better”, “history tells us about the past” and such like statements.

[ii] William Cronon, “Why the Past Matters”, Wisconsin Magazine of History, Autumn (2000): 7. Accessed from (29 November 2018).

[iii] It should be noted though that while Anne Frank may have started out simply writing a diary, she rewrote and edited her diary in 1944 with the intention of publishing it as a book, in response to the call she heard over the radio by Minister Bolkestein of the Dutch government in exile to keep records of ordinary life during the occupation of the Netherlands. See Anne Frank House, “Anne Frank and her Diary”. Accessed from (29 November 2018).

[iv] It should be noted that records of a particular emperor’s reign in late imperial China were usually compiled after the emperor’s demise and at the behest of his successor and heir. This thus raises the possibility of whitewashing the faults of the imperial predecessors. In the case of dynastic standard histories, the narrative was usually compiled after the fall of the previous dynasty and the history was usually written as a warning to the succeeding dynasty not to tread the same path.

[v] The officials in Canton first resisted the overtures of the folangji or the Portuguese as they were known in Ming records, but later acquiesced and came to classify the Portuguese as Malaccan traders. Eventually, both sides reached an agreement where the Portuguese established themselves on Macao in return for an annual payment of “ground rent” to the Governor.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

Newsletter Subscription

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up-to-date with new journal issues!