Showing posts with label HISTORY. Show all posts
Showing posts with label HISTORY. Show all posts

From Helenistic Age To Roman Historiography

Hellenistic civilization refers to the synthesis of Greaco – Roman civilization. The historiography of the period has also been referred to as Greco – Roman historiography. One of the most outstanding figures that this era produced was Polybius. None of the writers of the period carried  on the scientific tradition started by Herodotus and Thucydides. Indeed, after Polybius there was a gradual decline in the quality of historical writing. They developed a method of scholarship which Collingwood described as "scissors – and – paste method." While only the introductory chapter of Polybius works was constructed on the “scissors and paste method;” it was the whole body in the Livy's work. He just assembled the traditions and records of early Roman Historian and welded them together into a single continuous narrative history of Rome. Although, a philosophical historian, he accepted the Roman tradition of origin at its face value and repeated them in good faith.
The Hellenistic age did not pursue the vigorous historical scholarship laid down by Herodotus and Thucydides. In the feverish pursuit of writing a world history, the historians of the age developed a new method of historical research which, the so-called “scissors – and – paste.” This method simply involved the compilation of data from several disparate sources and authorities after which they would then be weaved into a single story. This method was far inferior to the Herodotian and Socratic method of the 5th century. The most distinguished historian of the age was Polybius and with him Western historiography reached its peak. Like any historian Polybius addressed himself to particular subject matters, e.g.. Conquest of the World by Rome. His field of research was probably determined by his vocation – He was a Republican Senator in Rome. Besides his preoccupation  with politics, Polybius broadened the Romans’ conception of history. History, to the Romans, meant continuity and in this regard minutest details about every – day life was meticulously recorded. Although Polybius was ambitious (to have written a comprehensive history of Rome), he realized that he was handicapped by his sources and age. Thus, he began the story of Rome some 150 years before the time of his writing. And despite the fact that he relied on those authorities which he adjudged trustworthy, he still remained critical of them. In other words, he did not allow his sympathetic feelings towards the Romans to becloud his sense of judgment. It was with this object in mind that Polybius refused to concern himself with the problems of origins of the Roman peoples.
Another worthy contribution of Polybius to historiography is that he himself to a more definite and concise conception of history. He used the word historie not in its original and quite general sense as meaning any kind of enquiry but in its modern sense of history. He was a proponent of this science to universal study for its own sake. He was the first person to conceive such an idea. History for Polybius is worth studying not because it is scientifically true but because it is a school and training for political life. He, however, did not think that the study of history would enable men to avoid the mistakes of their predecessors. According to Polybius, the only lesson we learn from the tragedies of historical actors is not to avoid such tragedies in our own lives but to have the fortitude to bear them when fortune bring them. With this position, it stands clear that the idea of fortune or determinism was an important ingredient of Polybius's conception of history. Nonetheless, Polybius was an accomplished historian in the context of the time and with him the Hellenistic tradition of historical thought passed into the hands of Rome.
The Roman Historiography
Although the Romans produced many remarkable writings they fell short of the standard of historical scholarship recommended by Herodotus. Indeed, after Polybius, there was a gradual decline in the quality of historical writing. The only positive challenge was offered by Livy who ambitiously attempted to write A Complete History of Rome from the Earliest Times.  The snag, however, was that while only the introductory chapter of Polybius work was constructed on the "scissors and paste" method, it was the whole body, in the case of Livy's work. Livy just assembled the tradition and records of early Roman history and welded them into a simple continuous narrative history of Rome. It was the first time anything of the sort had been done. Livy's history of Rome appealed to the Romans for two reasons: he had been able to produce a national history, a world history.
Although, a philosophical historian, he was less philosophical than Polybius, (but far more philosophical than any later Roman historian). In the words of R. G. Collingwood, the scientific claim of his work was very low. First, he made no claim to original research or original method. In fact, he simply accepted the Roman tradition of origin as he found it. Second, he overemphasized the moral purpose of history. He only probed into the past with a view to providing an example of early days when the Roman society was simple and uncorrupted and showing how the foundations of Roman greatness were laid in this primitive society. In the, event, he exaggerated the virtues of ancient Rome and romanticized its past. Despite these flaws in his conception of history Livy was able to recognize that history is essentially humanistic.
Livy has often been charged with credulity in his attitude towards his authorities but this is rather a harsh assessment, it should be noted that Livy was confronted with a mass of legend and all he could within the context of the scholarship of the period was to decide which ones were trustworthy and which ones were not. Three options were open to him: to repeat them, accepting their substantial accuracy; to reject them; or repeat them with the caution that he was not sure of their truth. Thus, at the beginning of his exercise Livy admitted clearly that the traditions referring to events before the foundations of Rome were fables rather than traditions and could neither be affirmed nor criticized. At the end, however, he accepted most of the Roman traditions and repeated them in good faith. With these obvious shortcomings and with Livy as the outstanding Roman historian, it is therefore not surprising that R. G. Collingwood remarked that:
The Roman age was, not an age of vigorous and progressive thought. It did singularly little to advance knowledge on any of the paths that the Greeks had opened up.
Indeed, after Livy there was no genuine historical scholarship. The succeeding writers became more content with compilation, plagiarizing the works of their predecessors and producing not historical accounts but propaganda. In fact, as far as methodology was concerned Tacitus represented a great decline. Apart from the fact that his works were a patchwork of quotations, his interpretative framework was very low. In his historical literature, he was obsessed with the teachings of morals. In fact, the major purpose of history, according to him was to record virtues and castigates evil deeds. Indeed, he saw nothing wrong in distorting history to achieve this objective. Besides, his works were characterized by a high degree of partisanship and low degree of objectivity. As Collingwood had revealed, Tacitus was flagrantly biased in favour of the senatorial opposition, had great contempt for peaceful administration and admired conquest and military glory.
Plutarch, another Roman historian of the period, did not fare better. Plutarch's main intention in his work Twenty Two Parallel Lines was to show the virtues in the character of these heroes. The consequent effect was that the quality of historical writing became affected as historical reality became secondary to persuasion. Moreover, all Roman writers were carried away by the use of flamboyant language, literary imagery and stylistic, brilliance. At best they were mere rhetoricians rather than serious thinkers.
Characteristics of Roman Historiography
One major feature of Roman historiography was substantialism – the idea that only what is unchanging is knowable. Although this anti – historical view had been deep – seated in Greek thought, Herodotus had, in the 5th century, proved that events are important in themselves. This stream of historical thought which flowed so freely in Herodotus became slightly dimmed under Thucydides when he contended that events are important chiefly for the light they throw on eternal and substantial entities of which they are mere accidents. If the stream was dimmed under Thucydides, it became frozen by Livy's time. The Roman writers drew a distinction between act and agent and fully subscribed to the view that history cannot explain how an agent came into being or underwent any change of nature.  This explains why their writings were parochial in outlook. For instance, Livy's Complete History of Rome from the Beginning could not look at the growth and development of Roman institutions but with a Rome already fully formed and unaffected by the course of history. In the same way Tacitus believed that human nature and institutions could never change. According to him “a good man cannot become bad" and power "does not alter a man's character;” it only shows what kind of man he already was. In effect, Roman writers did not bother themselves with how anything came into existence; all the agencies that appeared on the stage of history were assumed ready made before history began. Briefly, the position of the historian during the Roman age was worse than Herodotus' era as he was regarded incapable of studying those events which constituted knowledge.
Another feature of Roman historiography was its humanism. The era came into agreement that history is a narrative of human history, the history of man's deeds, man's purpose, man's successes and failures. No doubt, it admits a divine agency but the function of this agency is strictly limited. Indeed, most Roman writers secularized history making it entirely the activities of human beings. They contended that whatever happened in history, happened as a direct result of human will. Livy, in particular, dismissed as nonsense the attempt to offer divine explanation for any event. As a balance sheet, while it is true that the Roman era was barren of historical thought, it nonetheless extended the frontiers of historical knowledge into the distant past.
It is to the Romans that we owe the conception of history as both ecumenical and national. For examples Livy's work – History of Rome from the Beginning - was a pioneering attempt. In a similar manner, Plutarch's treatment of some of his heroes also took him back to the origins of the Greeks. And, although the Romans were imperfect in handling their source – materials, they still demonstrated a high sense of duty in their meticulous search for evidence and careful preservation of historical documents. These admissions notwithstanding, the Roman era marked a decline in Western historiography.

Western Philosophy Of History: From Mythical And Theocratic Accounts To Greek Age

The present stage of historical scholarship was not arrived at overnight; it was preceded by some development and growth. The first stage in historical thinking was what is called "Theocratic History" or "Mythical Account." The earliest accounts are referred to as theocratic because (of course) the actions recorded therein are not human but divine; the statements made are not fruits of research but mere assertions. Again, the statements are not answers to questions. Although theocratic history is not primarily concerned with the history of human actions, it is nevertheless concerned with their individual actions in the sense that the divine characters in the history are superhuman rulers of human societies whose actions therefore are actions done partly to those societies and partly through them. In theocratic history, humanity is not an agent but partly an instrument and partly a patient of the actions recorded. Finally, these actions are thought of as having definite places in time series and occurring in the past.
Mythical Accounts
Quite unlike theocratic accounts mythical accounts are not concerned with human endeavours at all. The human element has been completely removed and the characters of the story are simply gods or God. Besides, the divine actions recorded are not dated events in the past; they are in the dateless past which is so remote that nobody knows when it was, it is outside our time reckonings but belonged to the "beginning of things. A good example is Genesis 1 vs. 1-3. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth, the Earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of waters, and God said, "Let there be light, and there was light.”
The Creation of Scientific History by Herodotus
The man who elevated history to the level of scientific knowledge was the Greek named HERODOTUS. He was among the first set of Greeks to recognize that history is or can be a science and that it has to do with human actions. Herodotus lived in the 5th Century BC. Because of what he did for history, he has been, given the appellation "the Father of History." Before the 5th century BC, attempts to write about the past was theocratic and mythical. It was not a scientific study of human societies or activities. Although there were popular works such as Homer's, they were more about ethics, describing and embellishing the great deeds of the grandfathers of Greece. With Herodotus, however, there was a break in literary traditions. History for him is not legend, it is research; it is not mythical but about events in a dated past. It is not theocratic but humanistic. It was Herodotus who first used the word history to mean an "investigation" or "enquiry." He thus introduced history as a science.
The greatness of Herodotus as the father of history is further buttressed when he is set against a background consisting of the general tendencies of Greek though – only what is unchanging can be known. History, therefore, is a forlorn hope. An attempt to know what has been transitory is unknowable. In other words, historical knowledge was considered impossible. Against all odds, Herodotus set to the probe the past activities of man. Questions were now asked to get definite answers. Through skillful questioning, he was able to convincingly prove that historical knowledge was possible, something which the Greeks had labeled a forlorn hope. Indeed, Herodotus derived his fame as father of history from his book, the Histories.  The theme of the book was, The Causes and Course of the Peloponnesian War (Persian invasion of Greece, 492 – 479 BC). He was a child when the event took place. In his work, Herodotus used three main sources that were available to him. First, his own observations during his travels. He observed the buildings and customs of peoples in areas visited– Egypt, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Southern Russia, etc. Second, he took oral testimonies from witnesses or participants. Because of the closeness of the event, Herodotus had the opportunity of meeting people whop participated in the war before the event became blurred in their memories. Thirdly, he read existing documents and chronicles. The search for such materials was a crucial factor which distinguished him from his predecessors and further strengthened his position as the father of history.
Herodotus was not just writing about what he knew or what he had or dreamt of. He realized that he was ignorant on many aspects of the war and therefore went out to ask people questions which could help him fill in the gaps which existed in his own account. Another point which validates his claim is that of handling his materials. Here, Herodotus demonstrated an attitude which was then uncommon. He was critical, vigorously questioning the validity of all pieces of information. Such questions include:
Are you quite sure you remember it just like that?  Have you not contradicted what you were saying yesterday? How do you reconcile your account of that event with that different account given by so – and – so?
This methodology was quite new at the time and it accounts much for Herodotus' fame. In some instances, one may accuse him of exhibiting a trait characteristic of the writers of mythical and theocratic accounts. In fairness to him, one has to understand that the degree that he could use his critical method was limited by the society in which he was working, the limit of the knowledge at that time, and the limit of his own personal knowledge. In most cases, he had no means of crosschecking events and hence had to use his personal initiative.  Consequently, when faced with two or more conflicting accounts, he chose one which he felt was more probable. Nonetheless, he would still record the other version for the readers to make their own independent judgment. Whenever he made any choice, he would give reasons for them.
Moreover, the Histories was the first European prose. Before him, most writings were in poetic form, chronicles and verses. He also used dialogues by which he put words in the mouth of the historical characters. We should, however, note that the reason for his action is that, at that time works were meant to be read in the public. For any work to appeal to the audience it had  to be funny in content and interpretations. Nonetheless, the Histories measured up to the standard of a good historical writing. Although, the book by the present standard is mere logography, it thundered an historical development when it was written. In fact, the pioneering effort of Herodotus must be recognized. It was he who paved the way for the subsequent generation of scientific historians. His work is the fountain-head of modern historical thinking.
Briefly, Herodotus can be regarded as the father of history because some of his methods and ideas still remain within the fold of modern historical scholarship: firstly, the use of the world History itself. It was Herodotus who first used the word to mean investigation or enquiry into the human past. Secondly, the humanistic concern in his work could be regarded as the beginning of social history. For Herodotus, history is nothing short of human actions and he paid detailed attention to peoples language, traditions and customs. Thirdly, Herodotus set himself certain objectives which had since remained important in historical scholarship. He set out to write an impartial account. He also set to document the great deeds of the participants of the Greaco – Persian war so that they might not be forgotten by posterity. In effect, he wrote for the information of his own and future generations. Fourthly, Herodotus' method of collecting materials can still be recommended for modern researchers; a meticulous search for evidence, vigorous cross – examination of informants and direct observation.
Lastly, the critical analysis and interpretation started by Herodotus are, in fact, the basis of modern historical writing. It is therefore not surprising that R. G. Collingwood was full of praises for him and compared him with Socrates.  However, there is an area where Herodotus fell short as an Historian. He believed that behind individual person stands destiny or fate which determines the course of his life. This emphasis on the centrality of divine intervention in the unfolding of the historical process led him to adopt an excessive moralistic approach in his assessment  of the actions of the principal historical actors.
Another Greek historian of the medieval period was Thucydides. Like Herodotus, Thucydides has come to be regarded as a giant in Western Historiography. This was because he carried further the scientific conception of history started by Herodotus. History for him is an enquiry, based on meticulous search for evidence, rigorous cross – examination of evidence of informants, weighing of evidence and direct observation. He was purely concerned with humanistic purpose of history. History for him was the study of human activities. Unlike Herodotus, Thucydides secularized the humanistic aspects of his thoughts. In order words, he excluded divine intervention in his historical writings. Instead, he postulated an explanation of chance or coincidence as the determinant factor in the course of human life. Thucydides did not regard history as mere story telling with occasional embellishment and explanations. His approach to the fact of history is that they should be used in revealing the deeper causes of historical events and movements. Thucydides was not a logographer but a scientific student. He chose to write on the Peloponnesian war because, according to him, earlier events cannot be adequately ascertained.
One important area where he surpassed Herodotus was in his appeal to evidence.  While one is left to gather from Herodotus' works what his idea of evidence was, Thucydides explicitly stated that historical enquiries rest on evidence. This was the picture of Western historiography during Thucydides' time.

Facts About Ghana

Kwame Nkrumah made the Independence Day Declaration around the midnight (12.00am) of 6th March, 1957 at the Old Polo Grounds. Together with him on the platform stood Komla Gbedemah, Kojo Botsio, Archie Casely-Hayford, Krobo Edusei and N.A. Wellbeck. They all wore smock. On the Day of Independence Declaration, Kwame Nkrumah was just a Prime Minister. In fact, at that same time, Sir Charles Arden-Clarke was sworn in as the first Governor-General (president) of Ghana. Nkrumah only became President on 1st July, 1960 (i.e. Republic Day).
On 18th September 1956, it was decided and announced that the official date for Ghana to be declared Independent was set to be 6th March 1957. Note that Ghana didn't become Independent on 6th March, 1957, it was just the Declaration that was done on this day.

“The Big Six” in Ghana's history are ;
Dr. Ebenezer Ako-Adjei,
Dr. Edward Akuffo Ado,
Dr. Joseph Boakye Danquah,
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah,
Mr. Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey and Mr. William Ofori Attah.

H.E Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo, the current President of Ghana, is related by blood to three members of "The Big Six": Edward Akufo-Addo (his biological father), William Ofori Atta (his mother's brother) and J.B Danquah (his grand uncle)

The country Gold Coast was officially approved to be renamed as Ghana on 12th November 1956. The name Ghana was suggested by J.B Danquah. Dr. Nkrumah and Dr. JB Danquah conducted a research and found out that majority of Ghanaians, at that time, were Akans and descended from the “Ancient Empire of Ghana (south east of Mauritania and west of Mali)". And “Ghana” was the title name of the ruling kings of that empire. Hence, the name.

 The Ghana Flag was designed by Mrs. Theodosia Salome Okoh and was first and officially raised/lifted on Independence Day 6th March 1957. The flag was made up of red, gold and green with a 5-pointed black star dotted on the gold in the middle.
The colours of the flag, however, were changed on 1 January 1964. The new colours were red, white and green with a black star in the middle. These colours were to reflect the identity of the CPP, which was the ruling party at the time. However the original flag with its original colors was reinstated 28th February 1966 upon Nkrumah's overthrow. The colour red stands for the remembrance of the bloodshed that occurred in the long struggle to get independence. The colour “gold” stands for the riches that our country is blessed with. And “green” stands for the enormous green lands, forest and rich vegetation our land is blessed with.
Now, the black star. Many think it represents the Hope of Africa, it's not entirely the case! It is believed to have been borrowed from the flag of Marcus Garvey’s (a mentor of Kwame Nkrumah) shipping line which carried a black star. This shipping line brought most of the African freedom fighters and symbolizes Africa's strong unity in the fight against colonialism.

Now, the National Anthem. The current national anthem was composed by Mr. Phillip Gbeho in 1957 and it has 3 stanzas. The original lyrics of the national anthem also changed along the way. It originally had the following lyrics:

“Lord God our Father we pray thee, be thou our guide in all our ways, May we unite together, proclaim the dawn of our new day! Children of Ghana arise and uphold your cause and blaze the trail of freedom far and wide, O God our Father harken to our call and bring us peace here in our fatherland.”
However, after the overthrow of Dr. Nkrumah on 24 February 1966, the lyrics was adjusted. A student (back in those days of course) named Michael Kwame Gbordzoe (Now Dr. Michael Kwame Gbordzoe) supposedly wrote the lyrics of “God Bless Our Homeland Ghana”. And these lyrics have been used ever since the 1970’s.

Before Independence, Ghana's currency was the British pound, shilling and pence. However, when Ghana gained its independence in 1957, a new monetary currency was implemented: The Ghanaian pounds, pence and shillings. These were used from 1958 till 1965.

After 1965, the government of Ghana introduced a new currency called “Cedi” notes and the “Pesewas” coins. The word “Cedi” actually means “Cowry Shell” (sea snails) in the Akan language. These cowry shells were actually used as money in our country…way back in the days.

Ghana became 62years old on Wednesday, 6th March, 2019. This day, Wednesday, coincides with the original Independence Day on 6th March, 1957. It was also a Wednesday. The theme for this year's Independence is "Celebrating Peace and Unity" and shall be hosted in Tamale to commensurate with the unity in Dagbon.