History is a frustrating thing. Most have learned that history is a certainty, a fact, a singular, straightforward, correct answer. Our confidence in its authoritative certainty was forged in history lessons from kindergarten through high school. Multiple-choice and true-or-false questions have honed a belief in its singular truth. The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. George Washington was the first president. Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. A+.
History is not a hard science. It is not just an accumulation of facts. History is deeply rooted in the humanities, more closely connected with literature than math or science. History is not physics—for every human action there is not an equal and opposite reaction. There is no formula that predetermines or explains the cause and effect of past and present. Historians craft the cause and explain the effect. While dates, times, bills, and people are facts, they have no larger meaning without the analytical work that people must do. History is how we make meaning. History is how we explain the past and make sense of the present. History is not infallible; it is interpretive. Yet, history has been used in the exercise of politics as a form of concrete evidence. Politicians and influential leaders have wielded history in their bidding to influence the American electorate.