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The Kensington Runestone: Fact or Fiction - Essay Example

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Loewen believes that history textbooks (particularly high school level textbooks) fail to show us history’s true nature because they focus on facts in an authoritative tone. Because of the tone of history texts, the topics discussed are not easily debated…
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The Kensington Runestone: Fact or Fiction
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Download file to see previous pages Loewen believes that history textbooks (particularly high school level textbooks) fail to show us history’s true nature because they focus on facts in an authoritative tone. Because of the tone of history texts, the topics discussed are not easily debated. This is contrary to what Loewen believes history is about; as he states, “History is furious debate informed by evidence and reason” (4). The controversy regarding the Kensington Runestone is a prime example that history is about arguments and debates and not merely about established facts, dates, and occurrences. The Kensington Runestone was discovered by a farmer named Olof Ohman in 1898. Initially, the Runestone was thought to be an authentic Norse engraving from 1362. However, a year later two professors, one from the University of Minnesota and the other from Northwestern University, proclaimed that the inscription on the stone was written recently and was therefore a hoax. A few years later, in 1908, a book was written that declared that the inscription was real and authentic. From this point on, debate raged among the historical community regarding the authenticity of the Runestone and the other history behind it (Gilman, 63). Some experts claimed it was real while others claimed it was false. Several books and articles have been written about the mysterious Runestone engraving. The events and debate about the Runestone illustrate what Loewen means when he says that “history is a furious debate.” The story of the Kensington Runestone also illustrates the importance of evidence and reason in historical study. In 2000, there was a session held by the Midwest Anthropological and Plains Anthropological societies in St. Paul, Minnesota. At this session, 30 people gathered to debate the authenticity of the artifact. Gilmore states that “the talk was respectful and dealt with evidence rather than personalities” (63). This is truly the aim that historians should take; allowing the evidence rather than letting someone’s personality determine what the truth of the matter is. Furthermore, reason should also prevail because evidence and reason together will lead to the most accurate truth when it comes to history. Hjalmar R. Holand of Minnesota presents compelling evidence that the Kensington Runestone is a legitimate artifact. He has been studying the Runestone for over 20 years. He states that “This runic inscription is perhaps the most important that has ever come to the attention of man. It is the only legible inscription found in America” (Davis, 306). Holand believes the stone is very credible because there is a record of the King of Norway sending out an expedition group to North America in 1355 that apparently returned in 1364. Furthermore, there have recently been 4 axes found buried in Minnesota that are almost certainly Scandinavian axes from this medieval time period. The Runestone is such a controversial topic because of the implications that its authenticity has on our current history books. This is why reasonable debate and searching for new evidence is important for both historians and students of history. Loewen would argue that such debate makes history more exciting to teach because it allows readers to engage in debates about the past as differing opinions and evidence are presented. In this way, the student is able to take a more active role when studying history instead of just memorizing dates and names. Although Loewen’s opening statement that “High school students hate history” (1) is a generalization (I’m positive not every high school student hates their history classes), making students aware of the debates that are going on in the historical community would seem to make high school history less boring to a typical student. The Kensington Runestone is fascinating because of the controversy it has generated, yet the message engraved on it is equally interesting. The stone contains a short but significant message ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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