The authors of After The Fact: The Art of Historical
Detection, Davidson and Lytle, are historians who wanted to show how
history can be interesting to a wide audience and it is not just for old,
boring historians. Davidson and Lytle show the methods that historians use to
probe sources and encourage “casual readers” to appreciate the complexity and
excitement that go into the study of the past. There are many examples of this
throughout the book. Chapter 3 showed the steps that historians may use in
probing a document through the Declaration of Independence to show how
historians need to approach documents as well as what to take out of them.
Chapter 12 also showed more skills that historians use to understand the past.
This chapter showed how historians look at sources to understand the reason why
things happened as they did through models. They used the three models: the
Rational Actor model, the Organizational Process model, and the Bureaucratic
Politics model. Each model shows a different perspective that is clarifying and
limiting and in this chapter they used these models to help understand the
decision to use the atomic bomb. Chapter 4 showed how important theory is in
history through Andrew Jackson and his presidency. This book is more intriguing
than a history textbook. It goes more in death in showing questions that have
never been answered fully and different perspectives. There were many
interesting topics that made it feel that the reader is the historian. Such as,
looking into John Brown’s questionable sanity and looking at all the aspects
that may explain or disprove whether he was stable or Silas Deane’s uncertain
death and the many different accounts to figure out whether his death was a
murder or a suicide. The authors make the reader more clear as to whether a source
is reliable to answer the questions of history. The authors make the reader
interested in situations in history and put the reader “in the shoes” of a
historian.

 

Critical
Analysis

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American
and National Identity:

Chapter 3, Declaring Independence, is one of the
best chapters that shows a great sense of American and National identity. In
this chapter, we saw how historians interpret this document by breaking it down
into two parts. The first part is general reasons for revolution and the second
is a list of the treatment Britain, or the King, has shown to America in
specific examples. These two parts show great American identity and show the
cause for revolution and were the start of the great nation that America will
be. The Declaration is one of the most celebrated documents in the nation’s
history. Congress declared the colonies’ independence by issuing the document.
Even though we have been celebrating the wrong day since Congress voted for
independence on July second and not the fourth, the Declaration of Independence
brought a great sense of national identity throughout the colonies.

Politics
and Power:

Chapter 11, Huey Generis, shows how Huey Long was a
strong political power even though he never made it to national government
before he died. It showed how the public and the people loved him for his
character but as well as his political beliefs. He was a great political figure
because he was different from other politicians. His claim to greatness as an
event-making leader is on the capacity he showed to redefine the rules and
goals of politics at almost every part of his career. He helped Louisiana out
of the state of poverty they were in and kept trying to improve Louisiana as
Governor and Senator. Chapter six, The
Madness of John Brown, showed how his execution caused controversy in the
nation as well as politics. John Brown’s insanity defense had some appeal to
political leaders. Moderates from both the North and South, “seeking to
preserve the Union, needed an argument to soften the divisive impact of Harpers
Ferry. Were Brown declared insane, northern abolitionists could not so easily
portray him as a martyr. Southern secessionists could not treat Brown as
typical of all northern abolitionists.” These politics were brought into the
1859 Congressional elections and Brown’s insanity was used against both the Democrats
and the Republicans.

Work,
Exchange, and Technology:

In Chapter nine, Upton
Sinclair’s The Jungle left the
country in shock of the poor conditions of the meat packing industry. Many
people were concerned that their meat was prepared in the dirty, rat infested
place that Sinclair had described but most people were more sympathetic towards
the workers who had to work in these conditions. Teddy Roosevelt and many
reformers wanted to pass laws to improve on the conditions of the meat packing
industry. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle
caused other European countries that buy meat from the United States to hold
higher standards and were more strict in the inspection of the meat. Roosevelt
and other reforms pushed for the meat inspection act and it was passed in 1906.
Meat packers also tried to create a better image of conditions in their plants
and the thoroughness of government inspection, making those who worked there
with improved conditions. Now the public could worry less what their canned
foods contained besides meat.

Culture
and Society:

Chapter 13 shows how
media affected society in the 1950’s, especially for women at this time. The media
before the 1950’s because many of the men had gone to war and women had been
working in the jobs that were the men’s and this had brought a great sense of
feminism. Friedman’s magazine, feminine mystique, showed how life was changing
for women now that men were off at war. Society and culture had change, though,
in the 1950’s men had come back from the war and mass media was manipulating
society into the domestic lifestyle. Where women would stay at home and be seen
as wife and mother and nothing more or less. Mass media “brainwashed” people by
making them think the ideal life is women staying home and married. This was
seen in many television shows and movies and there were very little female
characters as well. The mass media changed from Rosie the Riveter, showing
women as strong characters who “can do it”, to Lucy from I Love Lucy, portraying a life of a women in a narrow domesticity.

Migration
and Settlement:

Chapter four talks of
the great frontier and at the time, migration to the west was a belief of the
famous Democrat, Andrew Jackson. Frederick Jackson Turner, at this time,
created the “Frontier Hypothesis” which encouraged settlement in the west and
was very similar to Manifest Destiny. This chapter shows how migration to the
frontier was one of the strong beliefs of Andrew Jackson. Jackson was seen as a
frontier democrat and was said that he “was the West itself” (pg. 78). He also
drove Native Americans off their land for more land for Americans to settle.

Geography
and the Environment:

Chapter five shows how
the environment of America was before Europeans had come over and how they had
affected the environment and the Native Americans. Many accounts of early
settlers claimed that as they arrived to North America they described it as a “natural
Eden teeming with life” (pg. 99). Even ecologists can claim these accounts of
the old world being plentiful in vegetation and animals. When Europeans came to
the New World they had brought over many things that affected the environment.
The Spanish reintroduced the horse to North America in the sixteenth century
and the horse gave the Native Americans greater mobility. The Europeans also
brought plants that caused the ecological systems to clash. Along with horses
and plants, the Europeans also brought diseases, especially smallpox; the
Natives were not accustomed to and caused many deaths. The Europeans and Native
Americans interaction at the frontier was a clash of different lifestyles and
environments.

America
in the New World:

The first chapter
showed how the early Virginia colony had settled in America and how historians
found many records to show what life was like then. Historians have found that
John’s Smith’s account of the Chesapeake Indians may be inaccurate due to his
bias towards them. The Tobacco records show how important tobacco was at the
early settlement and the public records are needed to fill in the places of the
personal accounts of the colonists that may be lacking in information or may
have a bias. We find through sources the interactions with the natives and the
Virginians of this time. We also see through the public records the labor
system then and how there was not much slavery at the start and more indentured
servants as many people first started colonization. The Virginian colony had
been very successful with the cash crop tobacco and John Smith narrative’s help
us know what the Virginian colony was like.

 

Historical
Skills

Contextualization:

Chapter seven is a
great example of how historians need to use contextualization in looking at
sources. In this chapters it shows how there were so many records from the
masters, abolitionists, and also slave narratives. With all these sources we
need to see the context of these sources and if there is a possible bias in
these. The records of the masters are going to be bias, leaving out information
of how they may treat their slaves trying to make slavery seem better than it
was. Now you may think that the slave narratives would fill in these missing
pieces of information but most of these slave narratives were from interviews
because most slaves could not read or write. These interviews were also biased
because the person interviewing picked those who they would interview and many
chose those who were older because their memory will not be as great from the
civil war and  since the life expectancy
was not long, those who are older may have been treated because they lived
longer. They would also interview the same person sometimes, in the book there
was an interview with Susan Hamlin and the same person interviewed but they
changed the name to Susan Hamilton. We need to know the context of these
sources to say whether they are an accurate source from that time.

Comparison:

Chapter one was a great
example of how historians use comparison in viewing sources. In the first
chapter, the book compared the personal records of the colonists and the public
records of the time. John Smith wrote his narrative’s for the wider public, to
be read and convince. Historians take in account these records but also realize
how these sources may be bias with John Smith was most likely trying to make
Virginia seem better than it may be and the interactions with the Natives. We
compare these records with the public records to prove or disprove personal
accounts and also to show the colonies life through the records. Chapter eight
is also talks of comparison. This chapter shows how photographs will show only
what the photographer wants people to see, nothing more or less. This is
comparing to literary sources where if you will also find a bias of showing what
the author wants you to see. The photographer Jacob Riis shows the poverty of
the urban life and this chapter shows how we need to analyze the pictures as to
whether they are an accurate depiction compared to literary sources that may be
easier to prove accurate.

Causation:

Chapter twelve is a
great example of causation, showing all the factors that led to the decision of
dropping the atomic bomb. The Rational Actor model suggests that Roosevelt saw
the military opportunity of nuclear fission; that he saw that the U.S. had “the
financial, industrial, and scientific resources needed and concluded that the
nation’s security demanded full-scale research and development” (pg. 280). The
scientists raced against time to figure out the “super bomb” before the German
Nazis do. This race and Roosevelt’s speed-up of research caused the scientists
toward success. The mode of Organizational process leads the historian to treat
government behavior not as centralized acts and choices, but as the actions of
bureaucracies functioning in relatively predictable patterns. Without all the
models, historians would never understand the reason why things happened as
they did. Each model shows a different perspective that is clarifying and
limiting.

Author