The Use of Evidence
Historians use many sources to determine historical fact from historical fiction. The most prominent sources they use will be primary sources and secondary sources. Primary sources are among the most valuable to historians, they offer a wealth of information that originates from that time period. Primary Sources can be seen as a window showing us what the past was like and what people were doing at that time. They can vary from maps and diaries to first-hand accounts of events as they transpired. Although they provide a wealth of information we must still examine them for errors and for other issues such as bias that may inadvertently have occurred during that time period. When examining a primary source we should first summarize what we examined, not excluding any information. We should then contextualize its contents, or examine what was going on during that time period looking for important events, significant movements, where it took place, etc. Once we have examined the time period and the information was given to us we need to infer the facts, where that point of view came from, and what its purpose could be. In addition, we need to monitor what we can reveal about this historical inquiry and how it can help us in the future. Corroboration is also key while analyzing the information present, we can use it to distinguish similarities and differences in the evidence. Finally, we need to interpret what the core meaning of the source is and our analysis of it. It is very important to ask all of these questions when examining evidence to determine if it is a quality source. If we were to examine a map for example that was created in the early years of colonization where we had little idea of what the world really looked like, we wouldn’t determine that the world in fact did look like that and changed over the years we would take into consideration that its creators may not have had all of the information needed to create an accurate map. By examining further into the time period and into the source and by not taking it at face value we are able to understand a lot more about history. For example, we know that the map is incorrect proportionally but that doesn’t mean it is useless. We can examine the map and find out many other bits of information, maybe how it was created, who made it, what it was made of, why it was made, all of these things are still useful as a primary source even though the map is not accurate to the real world.