Historical questions arise from our monuments, our habits, our documents, and our broader experience in the world. All historical projects begin as an effort to answer questions about origins, happenings, and consequences - like finding a puzzle and trying to solve it. History also represents a special kind of thinking. It involves telling a story, and while facts are essential in telling a story, they are not enough.
The art of history lies in combining fact and interpretation to tell a story about the past. As time passes, legends and outright lies creep into history. Historians try to distinguish between the true and the false. But in the study of history, "truth" is complicated, contradictory, and usually obscure.
Whatever its subject, the study of history is an unending detective story. Historians try to solve mysteries in the evidence and to tell a story that will give order to the confusion of data we inherit from the past. Historians make connections, assign causes, trace defects, make comparisons, uncover patterns, locate dead ends, and find influences that continue though the generations until the present.
History is far more than an assembly of facts. It is the interpretation of facts that raise questions, provokes curiosity, and makes us ask the questions who, what, where, when, and why. The interpretation adds up to what we call a THESIS, a point of view that binds everything together.
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