+0
"The aim of history, said Ranke, is simply to state "what has actually happened," but this is far from being a simple business, even apart from the fact that we can never hope to know all that has actually happened. If we did know all, we should have to forget almost everything before we could understand anything -- just as our memory is an aid only because we remember no more than a minute fraction of our past experience. As it is, the main problem is not so much to fill in the many gaps of our factual knowledge as to make sense out of the vast deal that we do know."

1. I cannot get what the author mean by "(this is) even apart...actually happened." Please explain it!

2. The blue sentence seems to me absurd. Why should we have to forget everything before we could understand anything?

3. And could you please rephrase the red sentence?

Thank you so much in davance.

Cadzao
+0
1. We can never hope to know everything that has happened, so stating what has happened is difficult. But this is not the only reason why it is difficult. Even without that problem ("even apart from that fact"), it would still be difficult (for the reasons that the author goes on to state).

2. I assume he means that if we remembered absolutely everything then our minds would be so cluttered with minute trivia that we wouldn't be able to filter out the important things -- the things that actually help us understand what had happened. (This is a matter of opinion. If you posit a vastly more capacious brain, you might very well also posit a vastly more efficient retrieval system to go with it.) However, the fact that we tend to commit important things to memory, and discard the unimportant, means that by the time we come to process our memories (and understand past events), a lot of this filtering work has already been done.

3. Making sense of the large amount that we do know is probably more difficult than finding out what we don't (already) know.
+0
1. He's saying that it's obvious we can never know the whole story. But, besides this there are other great difficulties in describing history, and it's those I want to discuss.

The red rephrases the black and the blue. I'm not saying it makes a whole lot of sense. "Understand" in the blue equals "make sense out of" in the red.

Too much information gets in the way of the analytical process. Too many facts can obstruct our vision of history just as too many memories can interfere with our ability to deal with life.

Personally I find this conflicting. On the one hand he says we must simply state what has happened. On the other hand he says we must understand and make sense out of it.

He seems to expect us to strip history down to its bare bones and then rebuild it using only the parts which have causal significance. How do we escape our own bias?

3. Forget about factual time lines and missing details. The important thing is to be able to fit the critical events together in a logical way.

Yeah, I think it's crazy. I guess if you're far enough in the future, you can look back and decide what was really significant in causing other things to happen. But at the time, how can you know they're important.?