HISTORICAL ISSUES

February 26, 2008

1. Using examples (modern or Ancient), discuss the difference between ‘fact’ and opinion’.

A fact is something that is generally accepted without dispute. For example, that Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC is a fact. An opinion is a personal belief or judgment that is not founded on proof or certainty. For example, the motives of the assassins are open to interpretation and thse interpretations are therefore opinion.

 

2. What factors affect the objectivity of authors of written sources?

The factors that affect the objectivity of authors of written sources are race, gender, class, politcal and cultural factors.

 

3. What is gender bias? How has it manifested itself in the reporting of history over the millenia? Give three examples of gender bias? Is it still a problem today in historiography?  

Gender bias is unfair difference in the treatment of men or women because of their sex. Throughout ancient sources, women have been portrayed in a negative light, had no voice and remain invisible in sources. Examples of gender bias can be found in Dio Cassius’s description of Boudicca who was a Celtic chieftain’s wife and the part of a modern historian displayed by Sir Alan Gardiner, a well-known Egyptologist who displays unmistakable bias in his treatment of Hatshepsut. Yes, it is still a problem today in historiography.

 

4. Go to this website and read the blurb on Josephus-http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/josephus.html . Who is Josephus? When did he live? What did he write about? How have modern authors ‘deconstructed’ Josephus’ accounts? Do they consider him biased and Why?  Lastly, is his Bellum Judaicum useful as a source for the Jewish Revolt?

Josephus, was a 1st century Jewish historian and apologist of priestly and royal ancestry who survived and recorded the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70. He lived from 37 until sometime after 100 AD. He wrote about the Jweish War (c.75) and Antiquities of the Jews (c. 94). Jewish War recounts the Jewish revolt against Rome (66-70). Antiquities of the Jews recounts the history of the wrold from a Jewish prespective. These works provide a valuable insight into the background of 1st century Judaism and early Christianity.

 

Martin McNamara writes: “All of Josephus’ four extant works are important sources for Jewish history and tradition. The first to be composed was The Jewish War—an account of the war of the Jews against the Romans. Raymond F. Surburg writes: “In evaluating the historical worthiness of The Jewish War, it must not be forgotten that the Memoirs are written from a Roman point of view. Furthermore, the fact that Josephus is writing under imperial patronage tended to give the work a pro-Roman bias”.

 

Raymond F. Surburg considers him to be bias because Josephus’s accounts “tend to give the word a pro-Roman bias”. His Bellum Judaicum is useful as a source for the Jewish Revolt because it gives an accurate insight into the background of the Jewish War.

 

 

 

 

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February 25, 2008