Subjectivitiy in History

"All history becomes subjective; in other words, there is properly no history; only biography."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was going through some of my autobiographical writings, and i wondered that there were events that would appear to be very different if narrated by a person involved in it other than me. And simultaneously i realized that those differing versions would not be the 'wrong' ones, even if they contradict the versions i narrate, because they would have been told based on the limitations of experience of that person, just as my versions would have been told based on my limitations. And in such circumstances, the idea of distinction between a right version and a wrong version seems to break-down: all we are left with are a number of different accounts of the same occurance, none of which is 'wrong' in the usual sense of the word. That is to say, i realized that i cannot even objectively describe an account of my own life, because the people involved in it would have their own versions to tell! And if it is that much difficult to write what 'really' happened concerning an event of recent past of one's own life, regarding which most of the facts are available and the people involved are alive, just imagine how difficult it would be to discover the 'true' history of an event that happened centuries ago, and regarding which you only have a very limited number of sources available. For me, it only means that we can never achieve a 100% objective view of any event in history... whatever we think really happened in that event appears to be so from our frame of reference; change that, and the version which appears to be the most accurate may also change. And of course, one can never say which frame of reference is 100% true; probably there is none.


Qasim Aziz said…
Allama Iqbal addresssed this issue in one of his random thoughts (in his private notebook,called 'Stray Reflections')a bit differently.He said ,
'History is nothing but the study of human motives,we most of the time are not certain about the motives of our friends and people around us, how is it possible to be so certain about the motives of people who lived centuries before us'.