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Friday, June 08, 2007

Meta-post on Psychological History series

Any feedback on my series, A Psychological History of Palestinian Arabs, is much appreciated. I'm trying to write it as quickly and thoroughly as possible but it is certainly not as well-researched or as well-annotated as a book or published article would be. Please point out any mistakes you may think I am making.

I'm really trying to get to the 1948 post, and all that I am writing now is meant to lead up to that point. (I am very surprised that I still haven't made it to the 1929 pogroms.) That would be the end of Part 1; the PalArab psychology changes dramatically from 1948 to today and that is a series of posts in itself, if people are interested.

So far, in default word processing formatting it is nine pages long, so it is already a long magazine article. I don't think that it will end up anywhere near book-length but the topic can easily fill a book. I anticipate the next post to cover the 1929 riots and political aftermath up until 1936, part 6 will be the 1936-39 disturbances and strikes, part 7 would cover World War II. I have a feeling that part 8 may go from 1945-47 and then part 9 would be the "naqba" itself. But things can change.

On the meta level, I am wondering if I am an "historian." I know when I am making conjectures, and anything that I write that is not based on solid fact bothers me, but from what I can tell "real" historians do exactly the same thing - making assumptions about the reasons events occur that can only be based on educated guesses. Historians clearly have biases as well, and their histories reflect their biases, something I am undoubtedly guilty of.

My method is that I try hard to find consistencies in behavior that can be explained by a mindset. This is harder to do than I had thought originally in this case, because the Palestinian Arabs at this point in my history had not yet coalesced into a "people" so there are a number of competing mindsets that need to be accounted for.

But, besides the fact that I am not being as careful in writing this as I would if it was for publication, am I doing anything different than historians? I do not have access to original source materials but I am relying heavily on contemporaneous newspaper articles and books that are online, as well as more conventional histories that are also online. (Google Scholar and Google Books helped tremendously for the first two parts; the Palestine Post archives will be my major source through 1948. I expect the Time magazine archives will be invaluable during the 1950s and 60s.) I have nothing but the highest regard for historians who discover and study original source material in the original languages, but I suspect that many of them are doing pretty much the same thing I am here.

Either way, I am learning a great deal that I was unaware of and I hope my readers are learning as well.