This session, led by Dr. V.V. Thomas, who is teaching at UBS, Pune, focussed primarily on historiography issues, and offered a few insights into methdology of writing history papers (even in theology papers that include a historical component). Most of it, would be revision, yet it was helpful to have it in one place. I’m not able to enter all the details because the electricity in Bangalore is very unpredictable, and unreliable right now. Even now there is no current, and I have to shut down my computer.

* Update

The structure of the paper was to firstly look at some of the techiques of research, and then to see some recent developments within historiography. I will be highlighting some quotes from the paper as sample of the thought represented.

Part I

Research is more than collecting facts; Need for methodology:

“It is possible to collect large amount (sic) of information on a topic and write a paper, yet that need not to have one main focus, no proper argumetns, no proper perspectives, no answer to questions and sometime no proper conclusion.”

Research: simple meaning… “to solve a problem”

Dictionary meaning: “A search or investigation undertaken to discover facts and reach new conclusions by the critical study of a subject or by a coruse of scientific inquiry” Oxford English Dictionary

“This kind of undertaking involves…: The existence of a body of knowledge in the particular area of study; the critical approach to the problem that a researcher woudl like to raise; concern for finding an answer to a question or problem that is raised; what is the scope of the question or problem; systematic inquiry and finally presenting the results of the research in such a way which communicates to a larger public and permits the results to be subject for verification.”

(The key point being that the reseachers begins with her own body of knowledge and seeks to exand it, and identifies a problem within it. I liked this point, because it was basically saying, work with your strengths.)

“Methodology does not refer to the procedure employed, but to an analysis of method.”

“The true historian is the one who, confronted with facts, assertions, and testimony offered with varying degree of authority, knows how to test them, discard what seems to be false and evaluate what seems true.”

In terms of historical method…

“Historical methodology consists of… (a) asking historical questions (b) formulating historical hypothesis (tentative working answers to historical questions) (c) findign out sourcse both primary as well as secondary (d) critically evaluating sources (e) recording and retrieving evidences (f) dveloping historical arguments etc.”

Issues in historical research…

History from whose point of view? How to find, select, prioritise sources?

Four basic assumptions for the Christian historical researcher…

Causation (there is a close relation between an event and its cause), contextuality (an event can only be meaningfully understood in its original or total context), accessibility (avoid prioritising the history of the winners, by looking also for oral/traditional sources to help bridge the gap between here and the), historiographical unity (no division between salvation and secular history).

Part II

Shifts in approach in Indian Historiography

Recovery of “the people and their experiences… new awakenings of their own culture and identity and self-concientious (sic)”

Important movements in historical research include…

History of the Subaltern People and Subalter historiography
Post-Colonial Theory and Historioraphy
The Place of women in history and the feminist perspective

I’m not explaining each of these points because they are pretty self-explanatory once we understand what subalter, post-colonialism and feminism is.

Dr. Thomas’ conclusion…

“In the emerging new picture of historiography in general, there is great scope for a wholistic history. The earlier notion of history as the story of only teh ‘learned’ is giving way to the inclusion of the so far ‘silenced’ people in the society. To develop such a history is difficult although not impossible. Of course there is a major taks on the part of the historian to find proper relevant and sufficient sources for reconstruction of such a wholistic history.”