Defining History Essay

This essay has a total of 597 words and 3 pages.

Defining History

In the document, "Indians: Textualism, Morality, and The Problem of History," Jane
Tompkins examines the conflicts between the English settlers and the American Indians.
After examining several primary sources, Tompkins found that different history books have
different perspectives. It wasn't that the history books took different angles that was
troubling, but the viewpoints contradicted one another. People who experience the same
event told it through their reality. This becomes a problem when a person who didn't
experience the effect wants to know what happened. Tompkins said, "The problem id that if
all accounts of events are determined through and through by the observer's frame of
reference, that one will never know, in any given case what really happened (202)."

The problem was evident when Tompkins was researching the history of the Europeans and
Indians. She started her inquiry with the book Errand into the Wilderness by Perry Miller.
In the preface of his book Tompkins found that Miller didn't even recognize the Indian's
existence in America, calling it "vacant." The fact is that there were Indians here,
Miller just didn't see history in that light. Secondly, Tompkins went to the book, New
England Frontier Puritans and Indians, 1620-1675 authored by Alden Vuaghan in 1965. This
Vuaghan's angle toward American history was antipodal to Miller, even though the writers
spoke of the same effects. Vuaghan recognized the Indian's presence, he speaks of the
European settlers and Indians not only having humane, considerate relationships, but using
their differences to help one another (205). Tompkins claims this to be irrelevant, saying
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