What is history? Okay, I understand this is a weird question, seeing as this blog is to do with writing. But think about it for a minute or two… who writes history? We’ve all probably heard the saying before, that history is written by the victors. Whoever has the biggest stick has the greatest say, yes? So here’s the big question for today: Is a history textbook any less fiction than a well-researched historical fiction novel? I once read a high school advanced placement American history textbook that said that the main reason the pilgrims came to America in the first place was to seek out wealth, land, and especially gold. This class was also taught by a teacher who tried to convince every one of his students that all of the major battles, natural events, and celebrations in the history of the world could be linked to the guady orange chair in his classroom, which had been omitted from all textbooks for the sake of its safety (so, you might want to take his opinion with a grain of salt). On the other head, I’ve grown up believing (and reading in historically accurate, well-researched novels and textbooks alike) that the pilgrims immigrated to escape religious persecution and begin life in a new land so they could worship how, when, and Whom they pleased (I’ll restrain myself from going into a rant about corruption and power grabs in the church that lead to that decision).

This is how it REALLY happened... thanks to http://www.paintmonkeystudios.com

We know that whoever wins the battles wins the right to portray the victory in whatever way they want… as well as the defeat of their enemies. How do we know that it is objective in history and what is made up? Everyone has a viewpoint or prejudices of some kind, and those beliefs transfer into your writing. It’s impossible to stop them. You can research and learn all of the different theories and accounts of every major (and sometimes minor) event that happened in recorded history, but so can the historical creative writer. And who can say that what an author writes about in a novel didn’t actually happen, if not in specifics then perhaps in general?

We’ve been going over this in a couple of my classes lately, and I might be doing a project on it, so I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also feel free to post any articles that might deal with this topic. Hope I didn’t step on too many historian’s toes with this. Oh well, I’d love to hear disgruntled thoughts as well. Just please be respectful and please don’t rant. Let us reason together, not rant.

*Disclaimer: The only book that this does not apply to is the Bible. I believe that everything (including historical narratives) written in the Word of God is 100% true, since it was inspired by God and written through human channels, not by humans who decided, “Hey, I think this is what God might want other people to know. Let’s write a book on it.” I have multiple reasons why I believe this to be true. If you’re unconvinced, ask me sometime.