HowHistorical Facts have been altered over the Years: Is Wikipedia aCredible source?
Analyzing the reliability of Wikipedia as a source for history research. Explain why you think it is a good source or a questionable one.
Wikipediais among the many online encyclopedias that came with the rise of theinternet and computers. As much as there is a lot of information hasbeen availed online, researchers and scholars need to be selective onthe sources from which they get the information relating to theirstudy topics(Schiff).Wikipedia, for instance, has many loopholes through which unverifiedinformation may be published as an accepted truth. This means thatanyone who refers to the text published on Wikipedia will bemisguided. If such information was to be relied on in research, thenthere is room for a myriad of heinous mistakes, prejudice andunwarranted conclusions and recommendations.
Inthe case study, Prof. Timothy Messer-Kruse explains of a certainhistory lesson that he taught to students about ten years ago. Heillustrates how he taught the class about the infamous HaymarketAffair that took place in 1886. At that time, a group of laboractivists and anarchists gathered in Haymarket, Chicago when a bombwas thrown into a cloud killing many people, among them policeofficers. Arrests were made of and the suspects were charged andunfairly judged since there was no evidence that was tabled. However,a student raised her hand to question how the trials would have takensix weeks and yet nothing was being discussed as no evidence had beenpresented(NPR.org).The professor was unable to answer that and opened his eyes to thereality that historical facts in secondary sources could be flawed.The professor seeks to find the real answer to his student’squestion and finds it in primary sources – original sourcedocuments. Prof. Messer-Kruse unsuccessfully tries to changeinformation on Wikipedia claiming that no evidence was presented inthe case(NPR.org).He has primary sources but Wikipedia policies require reference to asecondary source(NPR.org).
Fromthe interview, we are able to deduce that history could be a productof common beliefs. Prof. Messer-Kruse observes that his attempts tochange wrong facts with the correct ones were deterred b the factthat many more historians had recorded the wrong facts and had madeit look like it was the plain truth(NPR.org).The professor also evaluates the thought that statistics could alsobe, somewhat, relevant to the writing of history. In the analogousstory of the weight of an ox that had lived 125 years ago, he claimsthat the present facts could be an average mean of what differentpeople have recorded as to have been the weight of the ox(NPR.org).The problem arises that the people living presently have no directlink with the past and the truth could, therefore, be hard to find.3. Explain how history is manipulated for certain purposes, andgive examples from the document and from your own knowledge
Theprofessor is asked whether he would know of any reasons behind whichhistorical facts could be changed. He responds with a strongaffirmation that history harbors political power(NPR.org).History could, therefore, be changed to suit a politician’sideologies. It could also be used as a way of masking the truth thatwould tarnish a political movement’s reputation. For instance, in acase where illegal immigrants are secretly murdered through thefunding of a political leader, the individual will do everythingpossible to alter the information that reaches the public regardinghis involvement in such a massacre.
Prof.Messer-Kruse also notes that politicians use historical figures andevents to spice up their speeches and agenda. He sarcastically statesthat he doubt whether they even knew what the founding fathers hadenvisioned when they designed the constitution(NPR.org).They probably know very little about the history and that is why theyeven make errors in their public addresses but take no much note ofit as their aim is only to lure the masses into falling for them.
Historyoriginates from human sources and thus renders the truth as afallible school of thought that is bought by most of the mostprominent and reputable people(NPR.org).Facts may be covered by juicy untruthful stories but the truth stillexists somewhere. Just like Prof. Messer-Kruse’s student the bestway to get facts is thinking things over from an individual point ofview – thinking for yourself other than letting every otherinfluential human dictate history. The examination of primary sourcesis vital in the search for the truth.
NPR.org,.`WikipediaPolicies Limit Editing Haymarket Bombing`.N.p., 2012. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.
Schiff,Stacy. `Know It All – The New Yorker`. TheNew Yorker.N.p., 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.