In graduate school I was taught that the task of a historian is to describe how people in the past moved chronologically from A to B, with B always closer to us in time. It seems self-evident, but for me it is the most important lesson I received in my training to be a historian. Since people rarely stay the same between A and B, describing and explaining change through time always seems to me to lie at the heart of historical reconstruction.Yes! This is why the impulse of many Christian apologists is all fine, from a historical standpoint, even though the academic discipline, historical sense and overall effort of such apologists is often below par, for historical work. Nevertheless, the desire to do what Wood says above - to describe and explain what's on record, if possible - is a valid historical goal.
August 25, 2010
excerpt: the task of a historian
From Gordon S. Wood's The Purpose of the Past, Chapter 5:
"If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient observation than to any other reason."
-- Isaac Newton