DCHindley wrote:. . . Ranke virtually invented the modern concept of "scientific" history, and yes, it is based on the principal of direct correspondence of the events of the past and modern descriptions of those events. That was a "Modernist" POV, confident that scientific examination of evidence can establish true conclusions.
Despite the reputation that seems to have accrued to Ranke, Ranke did in fact recognize problems relating to interpretation of the data. He was not quite as "one-to-one" correspondence as is sometimes said.
But as for the "modernist" pov being "confident that scientific examination of evidence can establish true conclusion", I have serious difficulties with that portrayal of history/historians prior to White and various post-modernist criticisms. It simply is not true of most historians I knew or know anything about. Historians have "always" (at least since Collingwood) acknowledged the difficulties involved with interpretations, points of view, biases in both the sources and in the historians themselves, etc.
Collingwood is a modern advocate for this view that the past can be neutrally reconstructed from the surviving evidence by comparing sources and relics.
That's not the Collingwood I read in The Idea of History
. Far from it.
But keep in mind that the "post-modern" POVs started to question this idea of direct referentiality between past events and our reconstructions of them, and it was not without good reason. It came to be realized by most historians that it was impossible to be entirely [objective], especially in the face of revelations that a modern historian selects his or her facts from an array of evidence (relics) that have survived the ravages of time (the selection process is subjective, no matter how nuanced), and makes this evidence understandable through emplotments that are commonly used by society in the time period and place where the historian wrote.
(I sympathize with your loss of tooth -- I corrected your "subjective" to "objective" -- hope that was correct.)
But this was very much how historians worked before postmodernism came on the scene. Postmodernists didn't discover these things. Ranke, despite his reputation, knew and understood the problem of objectivity/subjectivity, Collingwood especially, and Carr started another debate over what makes a source "historical". And narratives of various kinds were always acknowledged, and how they have to be created by the historian, etc, because "history itself" does not exist "out there".
All of this was pre-postmodernist.
The emplotments are often used subconsciously, without the historian even being aware of the process she/he has employed to explain the evidence s/he has selected. One historian selects a different set of "relevant" evidence to use as his/her facts than another, or even if they select the same set of facts, they can "spin" it many different ways through the process of emplotment. Your example of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in 1941 is a case in point. This does not negate the existence of specific events in the past, but only our explanation of them. One POV selects the evidence that the bombing was effected as a surprise attack. The other stresses the economic pressures that forced the ruling government of Japan to employ that option as a preemptive strike. Yet the bombing still occurred. There is a lot of documentary evidence for that.
My example was taken from the fundamentals of how history works that I learned way back in the 1960s, first high school and then as an undergrad -- where all the talk was Carr's book, What Is History?
What post-structuralists (those who have studied and expanded on the original semiotic principals of structuralism, which had itself realized that the meaning of symbols is entirely arbitrary and based on the way the human brain is structured) do is use this revelation that the meanings are culturally dependent to look not only at the facts being presented by a historian (or narrative) but interpreting the explanation of that historian/writer in light of these issues.
Such discussions have long been conducted among historians. Ever since Collingwood.
Postmodernists have too often gone way too far and tossed out babies with bathwater, though.
It is not an attack on the past or our ability to interpret it! Even M. Fludernik accepts White's POV as valid, and she was actually a student of D. Cohn and cites her quite a bit in the book previously linked. Cohn, at least in 1999, was not so accepting of the POV of White, especially in chapter 7 of her book (boo hoo!). Cohn was critical of White because his definition of "fiction" was a variance with hers. Since, of course, she thought that her definition was better, White was making it harder for her to sell her POV (again, boo hoo!).
I don't become a "fan" of any scholar. I am sure most scholars like to have students who challenge and question what they teach and learn to justify their own enquiries and conclusions.
I have to mow the grass ... again
Mowing the grass can be therapeutic.