What Does “Doing” History Mean?
How do we actually “do” history? The answer to this question is the most important thing to keep in mind when looking into the past. However before this question is addressed, we must first define what history actually is. The most shallow definition would be that history is anything that has happened in the past, but this only scratches the surface of what history really is. After being in this course I have come to discover that history is the entirety of the past. It is not only the events that occurred, or the dates that changes happened. It is the reasons behind why certain choices were made, the feelings of the people who were living during that time. For the longest time historians believed that history was only the point of view of the white men, it was only the events that effected the white men but history is so much more than that. History is everything from the smallest accomplishment done by a small girl, to the creation of Canada by the fathers of confederation.
This understanding of what history actually is ties right into how we actually “do” history. Most people would say that we “do” history by looking into the past and learning about what happened, however this is not the only part of doing history. We tend to just analyze the who, what, when, and where’s of what happened, but there is so much to understand of the how’s and why’s. To truly understand what happened we must delve into why these things happened especially. For instance, when the Filles du Roi came to the colonies, they made it possible for expansion to happen, and made families to grow the population. However, we must look into why these women made that dangerous and uncertain voyage across the sea to truly understand the circumstances at the time. Also, when looking at the events of the past, we must look into how these things happened. Things like the previous social structure, and new foreign influences are important factors when examining the events of the past, and truly understanding the cause and result of such events. The extinction of the Beothuk people, is one of the instances when this kind of thinking and analyzing is so important. If we skim the surface of the issues surrounding the extinction of these people, we mind come to believe that the Beothuk were simply submissive, and basically let the colonists lead them to their end. However, if we look at how the Beothuk were a people who survived due to very precise conditions, and that they made changes in their lives to try and adapt to the impeding force that was the colonists.
By examining not only the basic facts of history, the information that we are forced to memorize in high school, and by looking into the human intentions and behaviors that lead to what happened, we are given a more broad and full view of the past. If we were to forever be content with what the rich white men said happened, we would forever be at a standstill, we would never move forward and learn from our mistakes because we would not fully understand them. What history is, and how we “do” it goes right down to the fact that we must dig deeper, because the deeper we dig, the more light will be shed on the events of the past.