What are the challenges in collecting historical data?

Research is a highly specialised activity that is more than just collecting information or writing a description. It involves collection of information in a targeted fashion, which is further analysed thoroughly to lead to answers of research questions and evaluate results. The collection of data is the heart of any research design, irrespective of the field of study. Any research begins with certain questions, which need to be answered. Data collection is the process of gathering the desirable information carefully, with least possible distortion, so that the analysis may provide answers that are credible and stand to logic.

Collection of historical data is not an easy work. The researcher has to face many difficulties while collecting authentic data. Both the primary and secondary sources are used for it. In fact, source means numerous fragmentary evidences, scattered here and there. They are not available in one single book, so a researcher will have to work hard and tackle archaeological, epigraphical and numismatical materials for collecting data in order to complete his research work. A good and intelligent scholar also faces the following difficulties during the course of data collection. In spite of once best efforts and wisdom one cannot get rid of them.

1. Difficulty of Identification of Names

A scholar or historian who has devoted himself to the task of data collection is required to work hard. He must go through the entire available material. No doubt, there are many names of the places in the data, where many important events of history have taken place but now it is very difficult to identify them in the present context. The name of the place went on changing with the passing of time. Sometimes the name of the person and place are identical but at other place they are contrasting. Moreover, the names of the significant rulers and authors also differ in description of different scholar; hence it becomes very difficult for the persons involved in the work of data collection, to trace the exactness of the material collected.

2. Non-Availability of the Research Material

All the historical research material is not available at one place and some of it has been lost in the course of time. A part of the material is eaten up by the moths, and some of it is buried beneath the earth. The cyclic change of weather has almost destroyed all such material, hence it is very difficult for the researcher to establish link between the gaps which are created due to destruction of past records. Besides this during Middle Ages a large number of materials was either burnt or destroyed by the foreign invaders who made invasion over India from time to time. Many historical buildings were also razed to the ground by these invader which if remained could have supplied much information regarding the art and culture of the contemporary period. Besides this the foreign invaders carried some fine specimen of art and literature to their own countries and thus they deprived us of some very significant source material.

3. Difficulties of Deciphering

In ancient times it was very difficult to record the historical event for want of printing press. Moreover engraving on stone and copper plate was not easy. Hence all the data could not be recorded and made available to the posterity. Sometimes the data available is recorded in a language which has still not be deciphered, hence it did not prove to be of any advantage to the scholars.

4. Subjective Writings

One more difficulty which a research has to face is that the recorded and available source material is written subjectively. During Ancient and Medieval period the historian and scholars were closely connected with the royal court and whatever was written or composed was nothing more than the praise of their patron. Their description is chiefly without objectivity. The patronized scholars have mixed the facts with fiction in such a way as it had become very difficult for the scholars to read between the lines and draw out the real conclusion. The same problem is still harassing the modern scholars. The historians of advanced and well to do countries have drawn a very miserable condition of the poor nations and the colonies. Thus their cultural contribution and heritage have been ignored altogether. Therefore the data collectors are in a state of confusion how to find out the exact objective data in order to establish the facts.

5. Difficult of Scatter Data

All historical data is not available at one place. Therefore a researcher has to feel much difficulty in collecting the scattered data. Most of data pertaining to wars, kings, dynasties etc. is scattered indifferent states and a researcher is required to make extensive tours in order to collect the data. Some of data is scattered here and there however remains inaccessible, hence the researcher feels a lot of trouble. A lot of material was taken away by the invaders and they had put in there libraries and archives, so it is all the more difficult for the researcher to travel abroad and collect the required data which needed a large amount of money and time. So the scattered data is an intricate problem for the researcher.

6. Difficulty in Procuring the Confidential Materials

The other problem is that of the confidentiality of the record. Some of the data which is kept in the national archives or with some government agency, it is also not made available to the research scholar on the plea that it was confidential and it could not be shown to the researchers. In case the confidential papers are shown to the scholar, the relations between the two countries will become uncordial or it may create some tension among the people of different religions or communities. Thus the problem of confidentiality is also a great hindrance in the way of data collector.

7. Problem of Expenditure

Nothing can be done in this world without money. Data collection also requires a lot of money. The researcher has to loiter here and there in search of data and sometimes he has to stay at place for many days. It also requires money. In case, the data is scatter at different places in the country as well as out of the country, it becomes very difficult for the data collector to do his work without a huge amount of money. Generally, researcher who has not source of income feels a lot of problems during the course of his travel, maintenance, stay and typing. Actually he does not feel himself comfortable while collecting data without the help or support of some institution of organization. The last but not the least problem is of establishing relations with the persons or institutions who possess the required data. It is completely based on the ability and efficiency of the scholars how he deals with them and how he extracts the data which is lying with them. Generally people are disinterest to part from the records, letters, manuscripts etc. which theory link to be their personal property. If the researcher is successful in establishing his rapport with them only then he can achieve his mission.

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