EVIDENCE EXPLAINED & the Interpretation of Evidence


13 March 2014

The role of a historian is to interpret the past. We gather evidence, analyze it, correlate it, reach conclusions, and synthesize our findings so that history becomes meaningful to others. But our interpretations cannot be any better than the evidence we gather—or our understanding of the records we use.

Helping historians of all ilk reach that understanding is EE's purpose. Yes, it offers 1100+ citation models, but having formulas to follow does not make us good historians. Yes, its 885 pages can seem intimidating, but assumptions that "it must be complicated if it takes 885 pages to explain the system" totally misunderstands what it is that historians do—or need.

History is not about a system. It's a search for meaning. When we use a source, we need to understand it. When we find a source we've never used before or one with puzzling quirks, don't we wish for a guide to explain the type of critter we've uncovered and how best to handle it?

For those who may be daunted by the page count, George Findlen, a while back, offered good advice in EE's forum for Citation Issues: "Humans only learn what they use. Treat EE like a dictionary:  look up what you need when you need it. Over time, you will master what you use frequently."  https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/how-does-one-eat-elephant-or-digest-885-page-book.