The film approach to history in this paper I want to consider the film as source material for history in the sense that palimpsest and parchment, hieroglyph and rune, clay tablet and manorial roll are source materials—fragments, sometimes fragments of fragments, often defaced by time, and applied to purposes of historical reconstruction rarely contemplated by the original authors. For the most part I shall not be particularly concerned with the various philosophies of history—whether it is the job of the historian to lay material dispassionately before the student so that he can make up his own mind about what happened in the past, or to digest source material in order to arrive at the truth—that is, what the historian may hope is the whole incontrovertible real truth, or to digest source material, as Macaulay and Carlyle digested it, in order to justify something in contemporary life or thought. All that need be said here for the moment is that films can be used, as other historical source material can be used, for various and different historical purposes.
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