For anyone who might happen to read this who isn’t in my historian’s craft class, this blog post deals with how time changes our views on the past. More specifically: how do I think the passage of time (4 years, 30 years, and 100 years in this case) will affect my view on the events I’m describing in my final paper.
After a historical event occurs two factories work together to alter our perceptions of the past, ignoring for now human psychology: first- new details about the past come to light; and second- some details of the events are lost. This may seem to be contradictory, but it ceases to be contradictory when you realize that different details are revealed and lost. This occurs naturally as people forget details about an event, don’t mention it to their children, or try to cover up the truth. Then later historians come along and through careful research uncover these lost details. Or, more aggravating, just enough information to cast doubt on current assumptions without proving anything. Confronted with this lack of information a psychological tendency of people is to assume that history was preordained, and that things have always been as they are now. This also clouds our perception of the past. A personal example of this was the 2020 presidential election. When the election was ongoing it seemed that anyone could win, a complete tossup. But looking back on it now I’m having to fight the urge to believe that it had a totally predictable outcome, the logic is since President Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 how after so much polarization could he expect to win it now? Even more for 2016: how could the democrats have thought putting someone with as divisive as Hillary Clinton up for president was a good idea?
As for how this will affect my history, I believe that the psychological detail will be the most relevant, unless the Chinese government happens to either open up its private archives or become a lot more transparent (both unlikely). So as time passes, my perspective of the events of today will change based on how everything ends up after that particular time period, especially as the changes in China are currently ongoing and so it’s impossible to know what will eventually happen. So after four years my view of events in China should be much clearer as things should have settled down, making it possible to figure out where things went and where things are going (that’s not possible now as things are in chaos). In 30 years and 100 years, things will settle down more and more and it will become hard to shake the feeling of inevitability as history takes it’s course. But on the other hand, new details will become available as the consequences of the actions and events of today finally begin to be revealed (though this process may take more than 100 years).