What is History?

Having read Tony Horwitz’s Confederates in the Attic, I had a very superficial understanding of reenactors before reading this week’s articles. Horwitz experienced a civil war reenactment with some ‘hardcore’ reenactors. His perspective on the men was rather different from the opinions of Kowalczyk and Little. Horwitz, while originally seeing their reenactment as playacting and childish, eventually comes to respect the men who devote their time to authenticity and history. Kowalczyk and Little look at the reenactors through the lens of a historian while Horwitz observes as a journalist. This juxtaposition brings up an interesting thought. While historians may not appreciate what they see as play acting at history and escapism, a journalist respected the men and developed a new found appreciation for the history depicted. It’s no secret that certain reenactments are popular draws for tourists. Just how different is reenactment from a museum using reproductions of Tutankhamun’s funerary artifacts in order to draw them to their museum? I personally see little harm in reenactment of certain events, especially if they history is depicted in good faith.

Wikipedia, ironically, worries me more than reenactors. Famiglietti does a great job of pointing out the fault in Messer-Kruse’s argument. The depiction of consensus as Truth is not history to me. How often to historians all agree on one version of history only to eventually reject their earlier convictions? The ‘history’ written during slavery was likely a consensus but not truth. Every teacher and professor in the academic world warn their students not to use wikipedia as a source but not even that is a good enough disclaimer for the website. With the inclusion of footnotes, now, different pages may appear legitimate enough. With the power wikipedia wields on the internet I believe there needs to be more responsibility. Wikipedia needs to reevaluate their motives and influence. They are a website of consensus, not facts or truth and, in my opinion, certainly not history.

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