Reliability of sources


#1

My son’s teacher made some anti Catholic remarks re the crusades in class and in a private discussion with her later, in which he attempted to give his understanding of the crusades the teacher said that she could find articles which contradicted his point of view so who is to know who is right? Thinking about that I have to agree with her. I only have access to articles on the internet. How do I know that the Catholic explanation of the Inquisitions and the Crusades is the correct one? How do I know that my sources are more trustworthy than hers?


#2

Articles are secondary sources in that they rely for their credibility on their primary sources. Primary sources are documents that are as close to the time period in question as possible. Historians prefer to give the most credibility to those sources that have documented the period in question within 180 years of the events. One hundred and eighty years is roughly two long lifetimes and is considered “living memory.” If something has been recorded as history within that time frame, more credibility is given to it because it is presumed that there were still people alive at the time of the writing who could have contradicted the record from either their own or from their parents’ memories.

As your son’s teacher is making the claims it is upon her to prove her assertions. She should be politely challenged to prove that the primary sources in the articles she cites are accepted as authoritative by historians.


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