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proper history

Huaman Poma de Ayala, an Indian who was a young boy when the Spaniards overthew the Incas of Peru, writes a letter in 1613 to the king of Spain, accompanying his history of the Inca people. His opening paragraph emphasizes the problem facing a historian without written records:

'Your Majesty, I hesitated for a long time before writing this letter. Even after beginning, I wanted to retract my words. I decided that my intention was a rash one and that, once started upon my story, I would never be able to complete it in the way in which a proper history ought to be written. For I lacked all written evidence and had to rely on the coloured and knotted cords, on which we Indians of Peru used to keep our records. Among our people I also sought out the oldest and most intelligent, on whom I could rely as witnesses of the truth.'

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