True history does it exist? History belongs to the victor, a saying that many know but few actually take the time out and think on the effects it has on us and our society.
History lays the foundation for our present and future. We build on knowledge and lessons from the past in order to build our present. Think on theories from physics, our view of the round/flat world and overall contributions which have fed current power dynamics.
If we look at history there are many tales of how the conqueror/victor destroyed the books and history of the losing party, in order to create a new foundation to build on. Think of Nazis burning books written by Jews and communists or the Chinese emperor Shih Huang Ti burning books and burying scholars in order to have history start with him.
This practice undoubtedly caused many key facts to be lost forever. Besides purposeful destruction lots could have been lost due to destruction by accident or even by nature. History is not only changed by destruction but also simply due to one party predominantly making use of products or facts which made the mass lose the history of said product/fact and change it with assumptions and perceptions.
How many people know that the tulip originally grew in the Tian Shan mountains and where actually introduced to the west by diplomats who had visited the Ottoman court. Currently the tulip is automatically associated with the Netherlands with few knowing its true history and even fewer taking the time out to research it’s history.
This is an example of how a change of perceptions can slowly cause a change of history. You probably just did or were planning to do, a quick Google search to verify this. Lucky for us we have this tool at our disposal but now imagine the facts that possibly have changed over the centuries due to there being no such tools in the past.
Another method of losing history is the withholding or ignoring of knowledge. Think of the tales of the Vatican allegedly withholding information which resides in their library or historians of the Smithsonian not acknowledging evidence found, as it didn’t support the narrative. And then the many instances of books being banned for various reasons.
This handling of history is in some ways synonymous with how we treat our own memory/history. Let’s start with something as simple as your CV. It could be that you have noted every position you have ever held or it could be that you have omitted short lived jobs or ones that didn’t go that well?
Let’s take it up a level to relationships. Could be, you have shared your relationship history, could be you have chosen to keep some facts to yourself?
Same question for life events. And now on to your memory. It’s been proven that our memory of events is inaccurate. In some case our brain chooses to forget in order to protect us from traumas of the past, comparable to burning of history, in other cases we only remember the happy or sad moments, and then there is the collective memory we have created with the aid of friends and family.
Or the various inaccuracies caused by our brain filling in points/details using the ‘assumption’ filter we have been blessed with so that our brain can create that which we understand.
Knowing all of this, is there any way of ever retrieving this true history? For human history, one might say travel, research, and try to fill in the blanks as much as possible. For our own memory some say collective fact checking, meditation and hypnotism might be the solution. What do you think?