Ein kurzer, modifizierter Crosspost von paintitscience, in dem ich einige Grundkonditionen von Geschichte skizziere, begleitet von einem Patchwork aus einem Richard Evans Zitat 😉
Whenever we mediate something, it is translated based on our understanding and based on the understanding of the medium we translate into. In both cases we can also call this understanding properties of the mediums. The properties of a human is different to the properties of a paper which is different to the properties of a computer. For us, history begins with us as a medium. Our perception is the first border between us and our surroundings: it is the translation of whatever happens in and around us into our mind as a medium. We translate it again when we use language to send a message elsewhere.
When we tell history we translate our perception of the past into a new medium. The complexity of initial events is not only given overtones by our perception and language but also reduced to the properties of the new medium. Before we think of history as omission and patchwork we should thus start to think of history as translation.1 The translation or rather the medium changes the form of the message and by that its sense. Told history is different to history on paper.
In structuralist thought, discrimination is a principle, fundamental to all languages. Our understanding develops by recognizing, creating, changing or adopting differences. Languages work(!) because they allow us to identify, group and order objects and in this way make use of them. Or the other way round: the way we make use of objects is reflected in our use of language. In history e.g. we usually deal with a lot of collective forms that bridge spatial and temporal heterogenity: the Romans, the Greeks, the Renaissance. But also rather usual forms like the parliament, Berlin, or the human are the result of discrimination. The use of language decides on who and what can become distinguished part of a story and what drowns in collective terms.
While it seems difficult to describe the properties of a certain medium we can at least state that all mediums are limited spatially and/or temporally. A book may have 200 or even 2000 pages, most likely not many more and it will certainly not have an endless amount of pages even if you read it on your Kindle. Whatever we want to say in a book: we need to say it on these pages. We need to reduce, to simplify and usually we anticipate the language of the readers so they wont be entirely confused about the content. However, we must not think of omission as a neccesary deficit but rather as a rhetoric device of giving sense to whatever we want to communicate. The fact that mediums are limited allows a valuation of content. By selection and exclusion history emphasizes and debases its content.
To present a narrative is to claim a senseful link between all presented elements. If we talk about the history of Germany we assume
1. that there is one Germany
2. that it has history and
3. that this history can be told
– all this without having started to read the story. By connecting story elements narrators make sense. But while history is patchwork, we can´t just cobble together whatever we like: Stories become history by being plausible (if we are able to retrace causalities) or by being familiar (if they resemble rhetoric devices we already know from elsewhere). Whether a story becomes part of a greater patchwork is determined by its connectivity and suitability towards other narratives.