Define the terms Conservative, Liberal and Marxist History and then illustrate the importance of each in the study of History.

Topics: History, Sociology, Conservatism Pages: 6 (2268 words) Published: January 22, 2014
History has been understood differently by different people. While some have understood it as the study of the past events, others have defined it as a record of human actions which have occurred in the past.1 However the variety of definitions, it should be pointed out that history does not constitute everything that happened in the past. Only those past activities which have had a bearing on the present are what may qualify to be worth history.2 Just as there are many definitions of history, so are there many branches of history. This essay is meant to define and illustrate the importance of three of the braches of history. These include Conservative, Liberal and Marxist History. The essay is organized in two parts. The first part will provide in-depth understanding of the three terms, whereas the second part will show how important each of them is in the study of history. Conservative History is one historical interpretation of history which traces its foundation in the word ‘Conservatism’. Conservatism literary means preservation of what has always been tradition. It is an ideology which favours status quo and is very reluctant to accept change. Conservatives prefer having things continues as they have been in the past. Any drastic change to tradition is viewed with suspicion. According to this ideology, political and other human institutions have endured through ages because of tradition. For this reason, change should only be accepted very gradually.3 Having looked at conservatism, it may now be imperative to define Conservative History as that branch of history whose writings are based on maintaining history as has always been written, without altering it. In this vein, this history favours tradition, as no perceptions or any other radical views are not emphasized. Conservative Historians may also write history not to preserve the past, but to remind society of the good olden tradition. The goal in this case, is to see societies revert back to the values of earlier times. Because of its emphasis on the value of tradition, Conservative History has always perpetuated inequalities, absolutist regimes and domination of the poor by the upper class.4 Liberal History as the word ‘liberal’ suggests, comes from the Latin word ‘liber’ meaning ‘free’.5 The word therefore, has more to do with freedom or liberty. Liberalism advocates for equality of opportunity for all and allows maximum freedom to individuals while limiting the powers of government. The earliest form of Liberal History was a reaction to the conservative history, which was being considered as static. Liberal History advocated for the freedom of thought for historians as a way of ensuring the progress of humanity. Core to this branch of history is the belief that if historians are to write history which promotes progress, then historians should not be controlled in trying to seek historical truth. The past, present and future are seen as being interconnected and influencing one another. Therefore, it is not necessary to emphasize one when all the three (past, present and future) collectively shape history of humanity. According to liberal historians, it is possible to analyze history progressively rather than look at it as tradition. They totally differ with conservatives who may always want to maintain status quo in areas such as divine rights of kings and hereditary status among many others. They regard traditions as having no value other than hindering social progress. Further, they hold the view that traditions and other social practices should continually be adjusted for the benefit of humanity. In other words, Liberal History constitutes those historical accounts which are highly critical of certain traditions and cultures, referring to them as uncivilized, barbaric and primitive. 6 Marxist History’s origin may be traced to the works of Karl Marx (1818- 1853) who analyzed human history and concluded that it was all about class struggles.7 It is...
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