Historical memory and historical fact - History of historical knowledge

Historical memory and historical fact

The content of historical memory is determined not only by the ability of a person and a community of people to remember or forget certain events of the past. The process of memorization is not mechanical: the information that is considered important and reliable is stored in the memory and transmitted to the descendants, and, as the study of historical works shows, the criteria for reliability were different in different societies. The notion that it is important to know about the past also changed depending on the tasks and interests of social groups. Information of interest to a community of one type could be perceived as not deserving of attention by those who possessed a different collective identity.

Medieval chroniclers placed in their writings stories about wars and armed incursions, the actions of rulers and powerful people of secular and spiritual status. They also included in their narratives information about natural phenomena, in addition to really large accidents (earthquakes, droughts, etc.), fixing and insignificant, from the point of view of modern concepts of history, facts. European historians of the XIX century. differed little from the ancient and medieval predecessors, considering it worthy to mention in their writings acts of a political nature. Wars, insurrections, political transformations, the relations of statesmen - this was, in their opinion, the main subject of history. They were not interested in economic life, everyday life, relations of ordinary people. The type of history they create can be defined as a story about deeds .

Currently, one of the most popular destinations is the history of everyday life , where the subject of research of historians is private life, relations between relatives, friends, everyday working and living conditions, worldviews and emotional life of people. Everyday life is not a discovery of modern scientists: in many societies with a developed written tradition, there was the practice of keeping private chronicles that told about the life of individual families, church and secular communities. It was important for people to preserve the memory of their ancestors: their glorious and shameful deeds, their burial places, participation in certain important events. Of course, most of the incidents recorded in the histories of individual communities did not fall into the official chronicles and historical works. History as a way of preserving the memory of the past and its knowledge initially existed only as a unity of diverse "stories": the scale of each of them was determined by the interests of the community, the authors' claims, the approach to the very concept of history.

A significant influence on the composition of historical memory has a system of representations about the truth and reliability of the events of the past. Historical works that appeared in different societies included stories about fantastic and fabulous events, in the truth of which people did not doubt and considered it necessary to transfer them from generation to generation. The stories of many peoples and powerful dynasties were opened with stories about gods and heroes, perceived as ancestors and initiators of all future events. In medieval Europe, one of the indispensable elements of historical narratives was the stories of miraculous phenomena, which were considered as the most important of the incidents. What made people believe in these incredible events? Were they just gullible, insufficiently educated, and intellectually developed? Why is the belief in national myths so vivid in the most developed countries of the world and individual events and characters of the past gain in the mass perception traits that bring them closer to the heroes and supernatural characters of the archaic past?

Probably, the very understanding of the truth and meaning of the events of the past can make sense, different from the one that modern historians invest in it. For them, the criterion of truth and reliability is common sense, which initially divides all facts into possible and incredible, and truthfulness of the evidence reporting these facts. People of antiquity and the Middle Ages, as well as modern ones, were by no means deprived of the desire to separate real events from fictitious ones, as well as to find confirmation of the authenticity of the facts. However, the boundary that separates the real from the unreal, the authentic from the fictional, is determined differently by different societies or social groups. For many eras, the miraculous and the supernatural were no less real facts than the war, the crop failure or the construction of the temple; people sought confirmation of the miracle and, finding evidence of it, undeniably considered it a reliable fact. The legends and stories of our ancestors were sufficient grounds for confirming the reality of the most extraordinary stories - myths and legends were born that were a special form of historical memory and historical consciousness. Moreover, it was allowed to rectification memory of the past: a medieval monk, composing a monastic chronicle, rewriting the life of a local saint or a monastery archive, could insert there information about events, the memory of which his predecessors did not preserve. Was he a falsifier who included fiction in a chain of historical facts confirmed by testimonies, or was he motivated by his own idea of ​​truth and justice? Perhaps his confidence that some event of the past would be justified led to a conviction in the reality of the latter. Writing a fictional message, the chronicler most likely assumed that he was restoring the historical truth, and not engaged in its falsification.

Historical memory and the historical consciousness based on it are among those phenomena of social and cultural life, the content of which is determined by the representations of different societies and social groups about reality, truth and reliability. These ideas changed over time and were rooted in the worldview and intellectual traditions of individual nations and civilizations. Different societies, and within them separate social groups not only form inherent types of historical consciousness and historical memory, but also reveal a different degree of comprehension of the past. In particular, looking at the past as a development process important for understanding modernity is a characteristic feature of the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian traditions, the continuity with which modern historical science is aware. The clarification of the picture of the past and the preservation of the memory of one's own history in these cultures were perceived as a way of solving actual problems, and history acted as both a "teacher of life", and as an instrument of knowing the past.

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