Friday, October 20, 2006

At the Creation

The purpose of this blog is to share my historical research; to provide data, documents and research that might not be available from other sources; and to explore how the Internet can spread and exchange knowledge.

Clio is in Greek mythology the Muse of History and thus this blog's title is a play on words. There were nine sister-goddesses who sponsored the arts and sciences. Not unlike contemporary celebrities, the Greek Muses made exciting appearances, but left the work of meaningful intellectual exploration to us humans.

By extension, the English word "muse" means to ponder, to reflect, to mull, to think about old ideas in new ways.

Musing about history, however, is not a dull activity one does while dozing on a sunny beach. History is not musty arguments over the past; as the important American author William Faulkner once wrote, that past is not over yet.

By that he meant that the past or our remembrances of the past only make sense in the present.

The French historian Jean Chesneauz took that thought a step further. He wrote, "The past is a reference point that makes possible a radical critique of the present and the definition of a qualitatively different future."

That is a very complex idea. But is it true? Is it a useful guide? Is the past, the present and the future as naturally and as excitingly linked as Chesneauz suggests?

How does Clio "muse" on that question?

Clio approaches the question by using something called "historical methodology". Historical methodology is a process in which documents and facts may be evaluated. Historical methodology is not a model in which the known variables can be supplied in such a way that solves for the unknowns. If it were that simple, it would not be fun at all!

But given that limitation, historical methodology is pretty powerful and subsequent posts will explore the uses and limits of historical methodology.

A blog, however, is also a personal journal and I do not intend to exclude postings of a personal or opinionated type. We are, however minor, all historical figures. Our lives are our history; we have feelings, ideas and opinions none of which ought to be suppressed from our writing. Self-conscious is not, however, self-indulgent.

The success of this blog will depend on the extent that I can fulfill its ambitions and the extent to which commentators help.

1 comment:

Bridget Cook said...

I am so glad you started a blog! I can't wait for some more musings!!!