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Revision as of 00:13, 5 January 2014

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 2 xkcd comics, and only 38 (2%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

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History Department
When we take into account the recent discovery of previously-unstudied history in the 1750s, this year may have been an outright loss.
Title text: When we take into account the recent discovery of previously-unstudied history in the 1750s, this year may have been an outright loss.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a HISTORIAN. There appears to be no explanation. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.

In this comic Ponytail is a representative of the history department, which might be a department of a university or other organisation. She presents the year report of 2018. In this, she explains, the department has fully analyzed over four months of history. In the meantime, due to the passage of time, another year of history has been added to their workload (implied to be the year spanning between the current meeting and the previous one). This presents a cycle in which the department would only be able to keep up if they could analyze, within a one year period, more than or exactly one year of history.

A department in a business, such as the finance department, is typically required to keep up with their own workload and complete an entire year's worth of workload every year. A business that fails to manage this minimum would almost certainly fail: bills would not get collected, invoices would not get paid, employees would not get paid, etc. A history department fails to follow this model in two very important ways. First, the subject of history cannot be fully processed. New discoveries change what we know about certain time periods. Even current events cannot be fully processed, as future events will cause historians to see connections in things not previously thought to be connected. Second, the standard model for History Departments focusses on specific eras or specific subjects for the purpose of explaining the events to students. History Departments do not process years, but instead process the subject so that it stays relevant to the understanding of the current student body.

The title text further expands this problem by indicating the discovery of a new era of history that had previously gone un-analyzed, which would have added more undiscovered history than it removed. The 1750s decade is possibly a reference to the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar by the British Empire.

Events in the dates listed:

  • May 21-25, 585 BCE: Possibly a reference to the solar eclipse that actually happened May 28, 585 BCE, or to the war between King Alyattes of Lydia and King Cyaxares of Media that ended after said solar eclipse.
  • June-August 1848:

Transcript

Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
[Ponytail is standing at a podium.]
Ponytail: 2018 was a productive year for the history department - we were able to fully analyze over four months of history.
Ponytail: Unfortunately, over that same period, an entire year of new history was produced.
Ponytail: I'm afraid we're falling behind.
[Presentation screen next to Ponytail lists studied dates:]
Studied
November 1833
April 19-22, 1979
May 21-25, 585 BCE
June-August 1848
May 16, 2001


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