On the wilting pages of history hide stories that we will never see, stories we will never know. Stories that will forever be silent and leave nothing but acrid smoke and fire behind.
How much of what we know about history is based on reality? And how much is based on narcissistic characters who wanted to portray himself as a better people? How many sides of a story are not ever visible to us?
Ever since I was a child, I asked myself this. Was Ursula truly a villain for sticking to the rules of her contract? Or was she simply condemned to a villains role because the story was written by Ariel?
History is written by the victors. While the stories and characters change this philosophy holds true for every historical event. We’ve all heard this quote repeatedly thrown at us by history teachers. Yet as a child I never understood the magnanimity of this quote and what it held.
At the age of ten I moved to UK. I remember thoroughly enjoying history class. I reveled in legends of a king who was shot in his eye and stories of Henry VII conjuring up his own church to deal with his messy divorce. History textbooks held a wondrous world of robbers and kings and wars and towers with secrets. Sure there were gruesome parts, yet it was amazing for me to think about people living their lives thousands of years before. It was a journey for the mind, to think and imagine far beyond the constraints of the present. I could almost smell fresh bread in the dusty streets of Rome.
One day in a textbook I came across a chapter about Indian colonies. As an Indian I was bursting with curiosity to read the chapter. After reading the chapter my curiosity was not satiated. In fact, I was consumed with anger and annoyance. But that day I understood the significance of the quote ‘History is written by the victors’.
The book which I read had the most blasé interpretation of colonization I had ever read. It glossed over all the facts and atrocities committed and portrayed the colonization of India by Britain in the most Disney-esque way possible.
“The British went to India through the East India Company and strengthened control over the territories in aim to help the India public. They built trains and taught the general public English and introduced them to western culture. The country prospered immensely under the British rule. After a while, the British realized the country of India was strong enough to stand on their own and left. The Indian people gifted them many jewels in gratitude.”
What? Two hundred years of plundering, robbery, oppression and torture paraphrased into one paragraph of a rosy- eyed kid’s movie. I was appalled. I had seen the scars left on my country as product of colonization. But for the millions of children under the British education system, this would be a reality they would ever know.
I took solace in the photograph attached to the paragraph. The photo was a definite mistake on the author’s part. The picture showed two men chasing two other men. Ironically, the caption in Hindi criticized the English and urged people to ‘kick’ the meddling colonizers. I laughed. Ignorance really is bliss.
History is, in many ways, written by victors. Consider the example of great battles. World Wars would have been differently viewed if Germany had won. There would have been no references of genocides and atrocities done by Germans. Just like today we hear of very few war crimes of the victors such as USA, UK etc.
Now this event happened a long time ago. So why am I bringing this up now?
If historical inaccuracies occur due to the bias of their writers, what’s stopping these inaccuracies from happening right now?
This quote affects us everyday. Nowadays we’re surrounded by news events 24/7. There really is no way to check how true these events written about are. News articles are skewed in the perspective of those who write them.
Stop and take a minute to think about this post itself. It completely reflects my personal views on this subject. It’s the same for all the other news articles you see (except a select few reputable sites). You often also have completely crazy, wacky news articles that are simply ridiculous.
Which is why it’s important to not believe everything you read. At least not immediately. “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet,” is the modern-day “Don’t take candy from strangers” rule.
Take a few moments to check out the sources and reliability of an article. I like to think the trial and error as well as common sense has helped me hone my BS detector but in reality I’m just as susceptible to inaccurate news as anyone else. But trying to unearth the untold side of stories and attempting to reach out for hidden stories ensure that you’re doing your part in staying educated.
Take this opportunity to update your BS detector!