History and Memory

More from the vault. Just remember that Clio is the daughter of Mnemosyne.

In 1932, Carl Becker urged his readers to “admit that there are two histories: the actual series of events that once occurred; and the ideal series that we affirm and hold in memory.” His insight summarizes the difference between the past itself and knowledge of the past. The former is what objectively occurred, which we can never know with one hundred percent certainty. The latter is what we learn about the past through what we can determine and what we can remember. History—what we find out through investigation—and memory—what we remember—are thus symbiotic approaches to discovering what happened. Their real kinship is reflected in mythology, as history’s muse Clio is the daughter Mnemosyne, goddess of memory.


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