24 Sept 2009

Let's not confuse the topic of history with a history of history, yes?

I've been on a "Proto-Indo-European kick" for some time now and so maybe it's time to welcome some new subjects. Variety is the spice of life, they say. My mind has been returning to the issue of the Minoans and the stinking mysteries that authors almost seem to encourage by drowning the reader in what-ifs and no conclusive framework. I think I now have another opinionative plaint against the style of many history books.

Rodney Castleden in The Knossos labyrinth: A new view of the 'Palace of Minos' at Knossos (1990), for example, explains in detail about the archaeology of Minoan civilization. I have no issue with the author, nor with the book per se. All this information appears to be excellent and informative in a way. Yet it's also irritating. I think I find myself being short with it because I have a subconscious objection against reading pages and pages of text that mix known facts about the Minoans, which I appreciate and love since it's my passion afterall, with the history of history itself, or rather, the minutiae of modern academic politics that I abhor with a vehement passion. For me, what historians have theorized through the eons, particularly the theories that no longer hold true, is unimportant and quite frankly egotistical because it reeks of a petty glorification of individuals' personal careers. I don't care about academics and their own histories to be brutally honest. Just the history of the Minoans, thanks.

So at the end of such texts where an author is too timid to offer a structure of his own, the reader is left confused with a myriad of multiple, mutually conflicting ideas from various historians and archaeologists, past and present. But... that's not what I read these books for. I want a structure. My detail-famished mind needs to know step-by-step what happened, or at least what likely happened given current knowledge, regarding the Minoan people themselves.

Oh well, I guess it just goes to show that one needs to be an active participant in reading and to develop one's own testable models to make sure that one understands what was read. Relying on authors for coherent models is in the end partly my fault as a reader. Time to get more pro-active!


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