Manipulating History: Week 4 readings

One theme that I want to pick out of the readings for this week is that of creating history to say what we want it to. This idea was first introduced to us by the historians in the first week, and later propagated by Tey in her novelĀ Daughter of Time. Grant’s nurse tells him that it is her personal belief that people hate changing their opinions on something. If they were raised thinking one thing, it is almost impossible to get them to change their views, even if faced with historical facts. In our readings for this week, this theme is also incorporated. In Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s article on trains, he writes: “The carriage…remained, in spite of all obvious shortcomings and dangers, the European standard for half a century thereafter.” I think this quote explains the phenomenon that Grant’s nurse talked about inĀ Daughter of Time. People are afraid of change, they like what is familiar. Because of this, people are hard-fixed in their ideas and ways of life.

I also want to focus on the argument put forward by Natalie Zemon Davis in her article “The Rites of Violence: Religious Riot in Sixteenth-Century France” because I think it is a very interesting argument to make. Davis attests to the fact that riots are not chaotic mobs like they are normally viewed, but rather have a very coherent sense of order in them. When I first read that as her goal of the essay on page two, I did not believe that she would be able to convince me of what appeared to be a ludicrous argument. By the end of her essay, however, I completely agreed with Davis’s argument. This just goes to show that if a historian, or any writer backs up their claim with solid evidence and well-written conclusions, they can convince their audience of their point of view.