American History in law a chronology
American history as told in legal documents dating back from 1492 until today. This excellent collection is available online as linked below from The Avalon Project that collects documents in law history and diplomacy as part of the Law School of Yale University. What an intriguing tale can be told from these documents, conveniently arranged in date order, linked in sequence, there is nothing like reading original source material to enlighten our trawl through time. Documents have often been literally the making of our history and the more contemporary to the relevant period the better as long as they are read with some context in mind and a wider view of what other other opinions of the same events there may have been.
There is some great material here that weaves across some themes that we explore and share on Intriguing History, but its such a great resource it would be a shame not to share it via our Blog and as a Resource we can all dip-in and out of. Its is so great to be able to access the modern transcriptions which the older the document is, the more like a translation is needed as opposed to a transcription. So many great documents are available in their latin transcriptions but if you don’t read Latin and we certainly don’t, they are of limited use if not in English.
But there is something special about unraveling some primary and contemporary resources without too much overlay of various historians viewpoints which at the end of the day are just that their informed view on what the sources tell them. More and more we are starting where possible to use quotes and citations from the related Chronicles and contemporary accounts. I was thinking that is why so many of us enjoy our special interest or family history projects, because you can get so close to the original source documents and evidence and make your own judgements and surmises as to what might have been, uncoloured by the viewpoints and biases of 2nd hand accounts or interpretations. But with the wonderful digital resources now available to us, we can start to find those sources and use them ourselves about our wider history as well. It is all together more like detective work but I guess that is why its such good mental gymnastics for the grey matter.
Watching the challenging source footage from the German Camps Post 1945 this last weekend takes that to another level. It is profoundly moving and emotional of course when you see the original footage but somehow even on this horrific subject, seeing it as near to first hand as one would ever want to be in reality is somehow much more insightful than just reading a historian’s account or a reconstruction. The first hand accounts on the documentary as the director says are the most important part of the programme.
So do take a look at the quotes and the details, there is as much we find no doubt that reveals what we do not know as we do, once you start to delve into the source material and in search of a good yarn all too often it feels like the popular books present as the complete events which when you just take a little time to research end-up being far from black and white or even as they are told.