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November 1964

What is History?

Arch Intern Med. 1964;114(5):717-718. doi:10.1001/archinte.1964.03860110187039

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Among the many things which distinguish man from the lower animals and perhaps in a more spectacular but less extensive way distinguish man at an advanced level of culture from primitive man is the capacity to use the recorded experience of the past. This can help determine his actions in the present and thus determine in part what kind of future the world will see. The codification of knowledge of the past and its interpretation constitute the material of history. Doctrines and beliefs, various schools, and ideological sets about history determine each period's interpretation of what has gone on in the past. For instance, how may one reconcile the doctrinal myth of progress with the fix that the world is in now? In the light of contemporary ideas about causation, determinism, accident, objectivity, and the function and role, if any, of the individual person in history, ideas thin out. Professor

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