Martin Guerre, Historical Perspective

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1 Hist 300-002 9/22/2012 Carl Winfrey Historical Perspective When referring to the “how-to’s” of historical writing, Natalie Davis brings to light an interesting question “ where does historical reconstruction stop and invention begin?” (1)Natalie Davis attempts to provide this answer through an argument with fellow historian Robert Finlay. Natalie, as well as every historian has a some type method or methodical reasoning when researching one’s topic. Natalie’s is one of a detective. Davis believes in order to understand and interpret researched data and artifacts one must put one’s “head” in the time period and culture in which one is researching, in this case sixteenth-century France.(2) She utilizes minuscule items, that may have been overlooked or maybe never even taken into consideration such as journals, letters, criminal records, popular poems, religious movements of the times ect. (3) Where her method might differ from others’ lies _____________________________________________________________________ 1 Natalie Zermon Davis, “On the Lame” American Historical Review 572, Vol. 93, No. 3 (Jun., 1988) 2 Davis, “On the Lame”, 573. 3 Davis, “On the Lame”, 574-575, 584-585. 2 in the fact that through logic and rationalization she draws interpretations or assumptions of her findings (4). I believe that Natalie’s detective method is one that provides entertainment as well as historical fact. She does not “bend” the facts, she merely looks at them through a colorful lens. Considering the time period she was researching, and the lack of material, one would have to make certain assumptions in an attempt to understand the social life of sixteenth-century France.(5) Davis’s arguments are easily understood due to the fact that most of the time she simply employs logic to her assessment of
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