When Tolstoy wrote War and Peace in the 1860’s, he sprinkled it with side chapters where he ranted against the historians of the day. He complained that they told history as a progression of major events precipitated by “great men” when in fact history is a much more complicated progression of cause and effect. Tolstoy was particularly sarcastic when he highlighted the conflicting conclusions of various historians (for instance English vs. French vs. Russian). At one point, he proposed applying the scientific method to history, asserting that a complete understanding of an event could be obtained by slicing that event into smaller and smaller pieces, in exactly the same way that a math student performs integral calculus.
Perhaps Tolstoy’s idea can finally be realized by using the power of mass collaboration?
I’m posting this from Cashiers, North Carolina. I wanted to visit some local civil war battle fields on the drive home (Interstate 81 in Virginia), but it is turning out to be quite difficult to find the information on the web.