Evidence revisited: Interpreting historical materials in sport history

This article identifies the interpretation of historical materials as the essence of contemporary historical practice. It then compares three different approaches to interpretation, namely, reconstructionism, constructionism and decontructionism, through case studies of four common categories of historical materials found in the field of sport history. official documents, oral testimonies, films, and photographs. The key to understanding the three approaches, and hence different interpretations, lies in their respective objectives for history practice and in their epistemological assumptions. In analyzing the four categories of historical material, the article places particular emphasis on deconstructionist approaches. Critics typically associate deconstructionism with the fragmentation of knowledge and notions of relativism. However, close examination reveals that deconstructionist approaches to historical interpretation are considerably more rigorous and demand more sophisticated contextualization and theorization than is popularly held.