Mythistory or Truth, Myth, History, & Historians
Myth and history are class kin inasmuch as both explain how things to be the way they are by telling some
sort of story.
Accordingly, a historian who rejects someone else’s conclusions call them mythical, while claiming that his
own views are true.
But what seems try to one historian will see false to another, so one historian’s truth becomes another’s
Scientific source criticism would get the facts straight, where upon a conscientious and careful historian
needed only to arrange the facts into a readable narrative to produce genuinely scientific history.
Reacting against an almost mechanical vision of scientific method it is easy to underestimate actual
Ideal scientific history was far more constricting than devotees believed.
Natural scientists are ruthless in selecting aspects of available sensory inputs to pay attention to,
disregarding all else.
They call their patterns theories, and inherit most of them from predecessors.
Newton’s truths needed to be adjusted; natural science is neither eternal nor universal but instead it is
historical and evolutionary- because scientists accept a new theory only when the new embraces a wider
range of phenomena or achieves a more elegant explanation.
The great and obvious difference between natural scientists and historians is the greater complexity of the
behavior historians seek to understand.
Historical complexity lies in the fact that human beings react both to the natural world and to one another
chiefly through the mediation of symbols.
Shared truths that provide a sanction for common effort have obvious survival value.
Without such social cement no group can long preserve itself.
Yet to outsiders, truths of this kind are likely to seem myths, save in those (relatively rare) cases when the
outsider is susceptible to conversion and finds a welcome within the particular group in question.
Today, the human community remains divided among an enormous number of different groups, each
espousing its own version of truth about itself.
All human groups like to be flattered; Historians are therefore under perpetual temptation to conform to
expectation by portraying the people they write about as they wish to be.
A mingling of truth and falsehood, blending of history with ideology results.
One person’s truth is another’s myth, and the fact that a group of people accept a given version of the past
does not make that version any truer from outsiders.
Historians, by helping to define “us” and “them” play a considerable part in focusing love and hate, the two
principal cements of collective behavior known to humanity.
What we need to do as historians and as human beings is to recognize the complexity, and balance our
loyalties so that no one group will be able to command total commitment.
We need to develop an ecumenical history, with plenty of room for human diversity in all its complexity.
All truths abstract from the available assortment.
Incessantly fluctuating flow of messages in and messages out that constitutes human consciousness.
Truths are what historians achieve when they bend their minds as critically and carefully as they can to the
task of making their account of public affairs credible as well as intelligible to an audience that shares
enough of their particular outlook and assumptions to accept what they say.
Mythistory is what we actually have – a useful instrument for piling human groups in their encounters with
one another and with the natural environment. As members of society and sharers in the historical process, historians can only expect to be heard if they
say what the people around them want to hear in some degree.
The Care and Repair of Public Myth:
Myth lies at the basis of human society.
Myths are general statements about the world and it’s parts, in particular about nations and other human in
Myths, moreover, are based on faith more than on fact. Their truth is usually proven only by the action they
In 1940, for example, when Hitler had defeated France, the British public continued to support war against
Germany partly because they “knew” from school book history that in European wars their country lost all
the early battles and always won the last.
On the other hand, Hitler and his followers were guided by their own sets of myths. But their belief in
Germany’s racial superiority, no matter how firmly embraced and enthusiastically acted upon, brought only
When actions undertaken in accordance with accepted ideas fail to achieve anything like the expected
result, it is time to reconsider the guiding myth, amending or rejecting it as the case may be.
Liberalism, Marxism and the various technocratic ideals of social management.
Columbus and Western Civilization:
In the year 1992, the celebration of Columbus Day was different from the previous ones in two ways;
1. This was the quincentennial, five hundred years after Columbus’ landing in this hemisphere.
2. It was a celebration challenged all over the country by people – many of them native Americans
by also others – who had “discovered” a Columbus not worth celebrating and who were rethinking
the traditional glorification of “Western civilization.”
“Who controls the past controls the future. And who controls the present controls the past.”
In other words, those who dominate our society are in a position to write our histories, and if they can
do that, they can decide our futures.
To tell the story of Columbus, you must seem him through the eyes of the people who were here when
he arrived, the people he called “Indians” because he thought he was in Asia.
Well, they left no memoirs, no histories. Their culture was an oral culture, not a written one.