If you’ve ever studied history, seriously studied history, the first thing you learn is that all history is someone’s story. Usually, that someone is a conqueror or group in control at the time the history was written. Unfortunately many erroneous histories get passed down via oral tradition inside of families. Oral tradition is very much alive – it’s when you answer your child’s or some child’s or someone’s question about any topic. Most of the time, we’re repeating what we’ve heard from film, television or someone else. We don’t question what we hear, taking it on the authority of the voice which speaks it. That’s dangerous. Fiction (film, books or television) should never be a source from which we gather information about history or many other topics. It can be a tool to open discussions and provide other points of view. As for documentary, again, we’re dealing with what the provider of such materials thinks they know about a topic, what limited information they’re using, along with a clear slant. Suspect the author.
That said – it doesn’t mean that when a group puts forward information that they’re being false. Take for instance, Black history or Native History. Often minority voices such as these (women included) are viewed derisively, not because they are false, but because they run against the grain of what is ‘accepted histories’. Think for a moment, why that is? Their voices are traditionally silenced or spoken over in the larger scheme of historical writing, especially in North America and Europe. Reading and learning more about other groups expands one’s view of events. It gives an additional perspective, or lens, from which to think about history.
If you get upset reading the history told from the perspective of the non-dominant, that might be the cognitive dissonance that has been established by the dominant group’s propaganda – for better or worse – history is largely a propaganda campaign waged by those who will benefit from national pride. The Texas Textbook debacle is an example of this.
Can truth ever be achieved in the telling of history? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t examine other stories and review materials, especially primary documents, to get a better grasp of the human story. If we’re to get a better grasp of the human story, we need to stop defining human as being white and male. Humans have many nationalities, several ethnicities, numerous beliefs and far more than one gender. It’s not going to be truth if we listen to only one specific group and ignore the others stories out there, I can guarantee that.