Re: Re: archeology meets the scientific method
- In a message dated 1/28/2000 7:00:10 AM Central Standard Time,
> I would reiterate my point about needing to look at the original material -In regards to Russian history, this was a particularly serious problem with
> which many historians do not do - and not just at what others have written
> about it.
American historians of a few generations ago. Some of the professors (who are
at retirement age now) were told, as students and grad students, that "they
couldn't learn to speak Russian anyway", therefore not to bother to try to
pronounce and to concentrate instead on reading proficiency. As any language
teacher will tell you, language learning is a complex phenomenon that
involves active and passive knowledge, and reading, writing, listening AND
speaking, where any missing element will affect adversely every other aspect.
Thus, by no conscious or willfull error of any particular person, scholars of
Russian history were very limited in their ability to understand Russian
scholarship, and of course to read period texts. Add to that a cold war
mentality, and the results are not great.
That is not to say all of American historical scholarship on Russia (of that
time) was bad or flawed, but almost all of it has serious problems. Witness,
for instance, the standard translation into English of the First Novgorod
Chronicle by Michell and Forbes. I caught at least one significant mistake in
Today, scholars have had the advantage of much better language teaching and
more decent language requirements in their curriculum (that is, more semester
hours!), therefore their understanding of the primary material is much better.
In fact, one of my favorite historians is Janet Martin. Although her book
_Medieval Russia_ is a textbook and a little dense for easy reading, I think
she presents the problems of medieval Russia more clearly than anyone I've
Not to mention Eve Levin, John Fennell (he is an exception to the above
rule), and others.
In other words, even we should not take anything at face value, but always
read a variety of literature on a subject, especially if we don't have access
to primary materials for whatever reason.