This column reminds me of two History classes I took in College. The professor (Dr. Fisher) was the first History teacher that I'd had who really showed us the process of discovery and just how messy and obfuscated the past in fact is. Our only assignment the first quarter was to determine, "Was Constantine a Christian?" To do this, we could only use primary sources written up to 50 years after his death. We had nearly all of the existent documents available to us, so we were in a very similar vantage point as those who wrote the black and white history books. We all came away with about as many questions as answers, what exactly constituted a "Christian" in the fourth century anyway? A large portion of the available documents were correspondence to and from the Papacy. This meant that you couldn't just read what was being said, but rather had to read through the fog of formality and need for tatemae (for lack of a better term).
Hello Christian (Do you prefer this to Chris?),
Thank you for your comments.
In my high school sixth form (actually, a 'public school', in the UK: grades 11 and 12, plus a special university entrance period--there were just six pupils in the class), we had three history teachers: one each for ancient, medieval and modern history--and, in our eyes, their respective ages pretty well matched these categories also).
But this meant that we were given three separate sets of history assignments, much like you had. So, we had to research, respectively:
Caesarism, the Augustine 'Peace';
The economics of Cistercian monasteries in medieval England, medieval papalism;
the 'Namier thesis', concerning history writing about the time of George III.
This was high school and then, in an outburst of Catholic ardour, I joined the Jesuits and eventually found myself in France. The Jesuits have a certain distinctive view of history, much like the Vatican--and also the Aikikai, and studying how history had to be 'packaged' and 'presented' was a very good education in a kind of media studies.
Thus, when I went to university, the first year history classes were not so difficult. The subject I researched in my first year was R H Tawney's thesis concerning Protestantism and the rise of Capitalism in medieval Europe. Later, at Harvard, there was the study of how manuscripts were created and edited: how monastic copyists systematically altered manuscripts. Why? Because they were cold, or they didn't like the Abbot or Prior, or they thought that e.g. Aristotle could not possibly have meant what he wrote, because it was clearly against Revealed Truth. So it was distorted, to make it even futher against RT, in order that the latter would shine out more 'truthfully'.
Now, I look at the documents we have about the origin and early development of aikido and all these old issues arise once again.
Actually, Stanley Pranin's articles in AN/AJ are the real prolegomena to a full history of aikido. The columns I am now writing can also be seen as a history of aikido, but with less detail and with much more of my own opinions, always given from a certain viewpoint.
This stuff is meant to complement what many other people have/been are doing and I would appreciate it very much if you, and others, would stand up and shout out when things I have written do not make sense or sound odd, based on 'received wisdom'.