The role of history is not to inform the current generation of'exactly what happened in the past', rather history now provides a myriad of different sources and historians who present their own differing perspectives and attitudes. Today history takes on a complex structure as one must sift through the "rubble" of opinions, perspectives and purposes to search for the facts before considering any form of subjective evidence.
The point surely is that we find it incredibly difficult to establish and define "the facts". Hence today we must be cautious in our approach to finding out'what happened?' as the historian's own background, time and purpose will inevitably shape the type and form of history being recorded. Further, caution in our approach to studying the past is also necessary as history never provides a single perspective unless there is only one historian.
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M. Atwood touches on this point when discussing what history used to be.'History was once a substantial edifice…' This gives the impression that history used to be where one would turn for answers that revealed'the truth' about the past.
This refers back to earlier attempts at recording history when the events and circumstances of the past could be recorded as fact, no matter how biased or unsubstantiated this may have been. Combined with this is the intended audience, which was frequently part of a minority of literate elites within society. This can be seen through an analysis of historians such as the Venerable Bede and Leopold Von Ranke. Hence history was written by and for elites – at least until literacy levels started to rise. As time moves on, there comes more and more ways of interpreting the past.
Atwood uses the symbolism of'acid rain' to convey this transition to atime where more factors become caught up in the presentation of history. When she says'terrorist bo…