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Re: Re: archeology meets the scientific method

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  • MHoll@aol.com
    In a message dated 1/28/2000 7:00:10 AM Central Standard Time, ... In regards to Russian history, this was a particularly serious problem with American
    Message 1 of 3 , Jan 28, 2000
      In a message dated 1/28/2000 7:00:10 AM Central Standard Time,
      alastair@... writes:

      > I would reiterate my point about needing to look at the original material -
      > which many historians do not do - and not just at what others have written
      > about it.

      In regards to Russian history, this was a particularly serious problem with
      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
      it.

      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
      read before.

      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.

      Predslava.
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