Social Science - Other

What Criteria should be used in Judging the Significance of Historical Figures

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The oldest living plant is the Bristlecone Pine in the White Mountains of California. It is a historical figure. What has it done? It has lived for over 4,700 years. That is all. It has lived for longer than any plant that we know of, except possibly for a creosote bush in the Mojave desert of California, which is estimated to be 11,000 years old.

A time of life historical figure could be a person who lived, gave birth, and died in the far distant past, leaving enough of herself and her possessions intact to tell us something about life during such ancient times. That is all.

A witnessing historical figure could be a person who directly experienced and witnessed a great event, living to tell the historians what happened in more detail than any other investigation can reveal. Survivors of the Titanic disaster, Vietnam veterans and Vietnamese who lived through the War are historical figures, whether they were humble, poor, or low ranking or high ranking and powerful enough to reside in relative safety. What have these individuals done? Lived. Witnessed. Recounted with verifiable honesty. Described emotions, feelings, backgrounds and human understandings that are missing from other factual accounts.

An integral historical figure could be a person who was integral to the completion of important historical actions. The actions of a WWII hero could have been integral to the taking of an important town or village, which led to more victories. An engineer's assistant could have made the critical connection that led to the first fully functional electrical power grid. What did these individuals do? They completed actions that were critical to greater actions and events in history.

An acting historical figure could be a person without whom major events in history would never have occurred. The terrorists who flew the planes into the World Trade Center are historical figures. What did they do? They planned, trained for and instigated a sequence of events that changed a nation and the world. Jackie Robinson changed the history of Baseball.

A controlling historical figure could be a person who ordered or carried out major events in the history of the world. Adolf Hitler ordered many of the actions of Germany that resulted in WWII and the Holocaust. Some were the first, last, or only individuals to accomplish something. Others were or are the record holders.

In developing criteria, a non experimental approach is required to investigate, verify, and define the actions and roles that historical figures play or have played. Once the truth is determined and verified, then many facets of making history can be identified and applied as criterion for earning a place in history.

As a result, the general criteria should be: time of life, length of life, impact of action, type of action, and truthfulness of record. Classifying type, magnitude, or quality of change in the course of human events is a set of ideas.

In some cases, quality and comprehensiveness of witness to major historical events is sufficient. In other cases carrying out actions that caused or contributed to changes in the course of human events qualifies a historical figure. In other cases, acting as an integral part of a team which carried out a sequence of actions suffices. In other cases ordering the actions on a large military or national scale qualifies an individual.

More about this author: Elizabeth M Young

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