History in Three Keys Essay

774 Words Oct 12th, 2008 4 Pages
History in Three Keys Essay
Paul Cohen writes in his book A History of Three Keys that there are three different kinds of historical consciousness; history as an event, written by professional historians, history as an experience, based on people who were alive and involved with the actual event, and history as a myth, a manipulated past to serve in today’s world. This is the only way history is written according to Cohen, three distinct and very different forms of history. He argues them while explaining the events of the Boxer rebellion in China. Cohen argues that the three forms are very different in their very nature and have no bearing on each other. History as a myth has a direct purpose. Cohen writes, “When good historians write
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A historian picks and chooses what information to analyze. By leaving out some information it is also a form of manipulation and twisting the past. I think that this shows a direct link between a historian and a mythologizer, whose job it is to twist history for another purpose.
The link between mythologizers and people who experience the past is even more unclear. Many of the people who were involved with the Boxer movement were not interviewed, or had not given out information, till many years later. I think it’s safe to say that that information that was given out at a later date is far different that the information given out during the exact moment of the event. The memories the experiencers had could have changed drastically over the years, whether by the outside world view of the event, or their own personal change of thought. Cohen believes that the people who were directly involved with an event take up a certain “cultural space” that cannot be described outside of the event. He writes, “Unlike the historian, whose object is to understand and explain, or the mythologizer, who draws energy from the past to accomplish purposes of a political or rhetorical or profoundly psychological nature in the present, the direct participant’s consciousness embraces the entire range of human emotions and goals” (pg.64). The person involved understands everything about that time, and that understanding cannot be reproduced. But because the…