A Perception of What We Think is True

History is written by the winners and Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “The truth of history, so much in request, to which everybody eagerly appeals, is too often but a word. At the time of the events, during the heat of conflicting passions, it cannot exist; and if, at a later period, all parties are agreed respecting it, it is because those persons who were interested in the events, those who might be able to contradict what is asserted, are no more.”  Thus, history is the facts that people have agreed to be true, but they don’t have to necessarily be true.

Facts can be manipulated and if history is what we perceive it to be, can we actually ever trust history, especially if the statistics were compiled by someone with less than moral intentions?  If I was taught something in History class and later on it is found that the history book was plain wrong, could I become psychological damaged from this?  A lot of groups got a bad rap from history and the American Indians were totally taken advantage of with the white men stealing their land.  The Black slaves were held back from telling their story for years, because they were illiterate and they were treated even worse.

Maybe history is a collection of stories that are told by the person with the biggest mouth, or are told from the point of view of the richest people.  I see history as being a lot like the Bible, being filled with wonderful stories, which may or may not be true.  Even if you do extensive research on a history topic, you are likely to come across facts that have been embellished or biased, so you still have to figure out what is plausible and weed out the ridiculous.  A lot of history is probably made up of fake news and this makes me wonder how Trump will be perceived in the history books in the future.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #58 – What is something you’ve long believed to be true, but you now realize is not true?

7 thoughts on “A Perception of What We Think is True

  1. That’s a good clip. And you mentioned Napoleon at the start, he is a prime example. In the UK, we remember him not so fondly, presumably because of Waterloo, but he did an awful lot for France. Napoleonic Law still exists, for example, and in fact, there is very credible evidence that he was finally poisoned by arsenic, administered by his British captors.

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  2. Very good essay, Jim. An example of “iffy” history I ran across about VanGogh last week told two very different stories. One he shot himself in the stomach. The other, two young man accosted him and one shot him in the stomach but he never formally accused the young man. Each story gives a very different perception on what happened to the tortured genius.

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