history problems

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Despite the fact that history has been written and accepted by a wide audience and scientists, the discovery of Darwin's slides containing samples from an ancient tree species exposes major concerns. Such quandaries, commonly referred to as the problem of historical data, emerge from concerns about the data utilized to produce and document historical information. Charles Darwin's treasure trove, which shows the presence of an old fossil plant, is one such discovery that confirms the difficulty with historical data (Falcon-Lang, 2012). The discovery of the Treasure Trove indicates that the legitimacy of data, or lack thereof, and historians' value judgment, among other data difficulties, weaken written history. The problem of data refers to the inaccuracies, gaps, and biases involved in the handling of data used to write history. As a result, the reliability of history in important developments cannot be guaranteed. The reasons for this are that since early civilization, history was documented from the elites and other influential people, and significant breakthroughs could be overlooked since the person who discovered them is not popular. In other times, the historian's value judgment, particularly in selection and sequence of data during research activities determined the prioritization, execution, and completion of data practices. Finally, it is clear in several discoveries of ancient materials that history is greatly influenced by the interpretation and understanding of the author. All these describe the problematic aspect that can arguably limit the extent to which written history can be held reliable for social, economic, technological and cultural developments.

In 2011, a British paleontologist Dr. Howard Falcon-Lang of the Royal Holloway Institution in London discovered long slides that contained species of an ancient tree species (Vinograd, 2012). The slides were estimated to have been there for more than one and half centuries and contained in these slides supported the existence of an ancient tree Fungus species believed to have existed 400 million years (Vinograd, 2012). The species are believed to be prepared by John Hooker a botanist and close friend of Darwin and Rev. John Henslow who was Darwin's personal mentor in 1846 during one of their geological survey in fossil studies.

Darwin's lost fossil samples can demonstrate several aspects of data problems. First, the samples are believed to have been made in 1894, a time when Charles Darwin was not popular. (Vinograd, 2012) For this reason, these samples were not handled with proper curatorial practices. As mentioned before, the popularity of a scholar and pioneers such as Rev. John Henslow at the times of Darwin influenced how history was written. Secondly, the historian's value judgment important in determining the selection and use of data in research is evident in the case of the lost fossil. More importantly, it determines the prioritization of research activities as most scientists can focus on what they deem valuable. This could be the reason the samples were put in a cabinet and became forgotten for they were not highly valuable in comparison to other projects they were handling (Vinograd, 2012). Finally, another problem of data evident in the case was mismanagement of data, as it is evident Hooker did not record the samples in the formal register before turning to other projects.

As a result, scientists missed important discoveries and probably connections that can fill in the existing historical gaps. Specifically, the samples could have provided new data on the evolution of the Fungus giant plant that shares similar environmental conditions with dinosaurs, and that make up the fossils (Falcon-Lang, 2012). Consequently, a scientist can achieve new knowledge such as a change in climatic conditions over the time and evolution of plants.

In conclusion, several problematic aspects of history confirm that reliability of history is limited and not guaranteed in the development of communities. The major reasons lie in data handling and management practices as demonstrated in the case above. For this reason, it is clear that scientists have missed other model discoveries through the authenticity of data, and value judgment that has occurred thereby influencing the writing of histories.


Falcon-Lang, H J. (2012). Fossil 'treasure trove' found in British Geological Survey vaults Geology Today 28 (1), 32-36.

Vinograd, C., A. (2012). UK scientists find 'lost' Darwin fossils. Yahoo.com. Retrieved 17 April 2017, from https://www.yahoo.com/news/uk-scientists-lost-darwin-fossils-060025391.html

April 19, 2023


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