Historical Knowledge; Content or Historian?

Mohammad Doroudian
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


In spite of its rich and deep concepts and theoretic foundations, approach and methodology, the historiography of the Iraq’s war against Iran has remained widely neglected. Presence of the war generation and more importantly due to socio-political considerations, the historiography of war is still tangled with “logging” in the form of written documentation or oral history.  Despite the need to enhance the historical subjects in war historiography and focus on historical details, I believe that without due consideration of its theoretic foundations and methodology the transformation required, i.e., “Application of history for the future” instead of “Restriction of history in history” will not be realized.

The current trend in historiography with regards to approach and methodology is affected by literature in its general perspective and political and controversial considerations. Continuation of the current trend will restrict “the past in the past” and limit learning lessons from history. Hence, there is the risk that in similar historical moments, the experience of the past be repeated. Reflection that I had and study of the article by Mr. Samadzadeh, resulted in the modification and publication of this article.

  1. Questions on feasibility of “historical knowledge” meaning historical competence are answered based on two hypotheses: first, history means occurrence of an event in time and space. Other fact is that verification of occurrence of such events and its details is possible through documented historiography and content production. Hence, any documented and verifiable argument on historical events through various methods is perceived as Epistemology of the history.
  2. The historical “epistemology system structure” is based on three pillars including: “event-historian- content”. While the event has occurred in time, it is revealed to the historian through documents and then transforms into content production (historiography). Event-content- historian are linked; hence history is realized through events but in the absence of the historian, historical content will not be produced and the event will remain as an individual or collective memory and fade subject to changes in condition and by the pass of time. In this perspective, there is a type of dichotomy; while the history passes through the path of historiography by the historian, historical epistemology is realized through content production and study of such content and becomes a reference and valid document.
  3. “Historical epistemology conundrum” emerges from the dichotomy of event-historian. History is emerge and realization of an event in time-space, which occurs once and it’s over. The documents and relics remaining in the mental-material life of the community are the means of historical realization adopted by the historians associated with gradual accumulation. It means that any content concerning an event eventually transforms into a historical content and the history itself.

Historical content, meaning historiography of historical events is produced and studied by the historians. In this type of study, “content” is a source of reference and reflection based on written documents. While, history is the need and subject of knowledge for the audience, historiography and content produced by the historian is a reference. In this transformation, gradually, “content overrides the event” and historical knowledge through study of such content, while magnifying the role of the historian in “reviving history”, is less acknowledged.

  1. According to the above, historical epistemology is realized through historian but shall not be achieved through the knowledge of the historian since they use information, conceptual and methodical means for exposure to the event and production of the content. The historians are involved with the past but live in the present and the historical content is the result of their mind, mental considerations and methodology. Accordingly, the assumption is that in study of historical events, the event in history is the focus while due to the role and mediation of the historian in the epistemology of the event, through study and content products, in fact, content and event are the captives of the historian. Any attempt with the aim of studying historical events is in fact study of the content produced by the historians. Hence, the question is whether historical knowledge might be realized considering the above description and the contradictions within the concept.

Mohammad Doroudian

21 June 2019

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