Here is the follow-up to my post on historical-research from two weeks ago. To view the first installment, click HERE.
I'd like to talk a little bit about historical documents today. I think the other resources for research have been pretty much covered (internet, books, historians, documentaries).
One can glean much from going back to the documents penned in the time you are researching. It is very, very helpful to get insights from people living in the actual time.
Before I proceed, however, I've come across modern historians who try to change what was actually said by people living in the era themselves. Many modern historians don't trust the historians of the actual era. In some cases, the modern historian is probably correct. In others, they are not.
One instance of where the historians are probably correct is in dealing with the recorders on the victorious or conquering side of the story. Sometimes, the story is exaggerated and put down as fact. (You know what I'm talking about - you've all heard fishing and hunting stories!)
historian Tacitus exaggerated the British causalities asopposed to the Roman causalities in the Battle of Watling Street. Tacitus claimed that thousands upon thousands of Britons were killed while only around a hundred or so legionaries were killed. Yes, I believe the odds were really great - it is a fact that only a few Romans were killed and thousands of Britons were killed. But some of his numbers were slightly unbelievable.
So, when going back to original documents, bear in mind that exaggeration sometimes went into the writing.
Still, I highly recommend going back to them!
For examples of historical documents I have used, I used the medieval Babees book for information on the well-mannered page. I have used the works of Josephus, Tacitus, Seneca, Pliny, and Gibbon for Roman research and their views on their era. When I researched the African Slave Trade, I read portions of Olaudah Equiano's book about his life and portions of William Wilberforce's books. Now, I am preparing to peruse Travis's letters for research on the Battle of the Alamo. I have read Davy Crockett's personal account of his life.
Why? Because there is nothing like obtaining the viewpoint of someone who was actually there!
Just endeavor to have discernment (some 21st historians will deny everything the past historians said) and do the best with you can with sorting out the truth and the exaggerations. And, remember, the professional historians have to do the same thing! You are just like they are.
Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!
Any questions or comments?