Civil War Interactive Discussion Board Home
Home Search search Menu menu Not logged in - Login | Register


Author Bias - Other Civil War Talk - Civil War Talk - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
 Moderated by: javal1 Page:    1  2  3  Next Page Last Page  
 New Topic   Reply   Printer Friendly 
 Rating:  Rating
AuthorPost
 Posted: Fri Nov 30th, 2007 08:27 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
1st Post
JoanieReb
Member
 

Joined: Wed Jan 24th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 620
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Since it is obviously incongrous with the rest of the States Rights and Slavery thread, I guess I should step out of the shelter of said thread to continue with the "author bias" train of thought,  which started with this exchange:

Ole:  " Among the stable of published historians, name one who writes with a bias."

Me:  James M. McPherson.:P


Rightfully, Ole asked me defend this charge, and we had a couple more back-and forth's.

Maybe no one but Ole and I are interested in this one, so I'll start slow, but I already have plenty more in my arsenal.

Simply this to begin with:  in the preface to The Illustrated Battle Cry of Freedom, page XIII, the iconic McPherson states, ".....I have chosen a narrative framework to tell my story and point it's moral" (italics mine). 

Since when is it the unbiased historian's job to openly moralize? 

I do think of McPherson as more a socialogist than historian, but that is a relatively small point.

Anyway, there's my opener, can continue on if called on to do so.

Joanie

Last edited on Sat Dec 1st, 2007 12:23 am by JoanieReb



 Posted: Fri Nov 30th, 2007 09:10 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
2nd Post
Texas Defender
Member


Joined: Sat Jan 27th, 2007
Location: Texas USA
Posts: 920
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

  History is always told from a point of view.



 Posted: Fri Nov 30th, 2007 09:21 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
3rd Post
JoanieReb
Member
 

Joined: Wed Jan 24th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 620
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

So, TD, are you agreeing with me, disagreeing with me, or just stating a fact for further discussion to build on?


Any which way, glad to have some interest shown! )__

Ole and I previously discussed the inevitability of bias in any historical account, and what constituted a notable bias. Should I pull out the related posts from The SR&S thread, or just leave it as be?



 Posted: Fri Nov 30th, 2007 09:26 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
4th Post
Texas Defender
Member


Joined: Sat Jan 27th, 2007
Location: Texas USA
Posts: 920
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

  I'm saying that since history is written from a point of view, some degree of: "author bias" will always exist.



 Posted: Fri Nov 30th, 2007 09:52 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
5th Post
JoanieReb
Member
 

Joined: Wed Jan 24th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 620
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Yes, Agreed, TD.

Last Wednesday, in reply to Ole, in the SR&S thread, I wrote,

 "Now, academically, let me point out that by human nature, every person is biased.  We are subjective by nature, there is no such thing as a truly "objective observer". Even every good set of scientific data must have it's "bias" calculated.

The questions to ask with each historian are: where is his/her bias?, how does he/she deal with it? and, how severe is it?"


(Yeeks, feels weird quoting myself).

Does this work for you?

And then comes the question, at which point does a bias become a notable bias?

(I liked being hidden in the shadows of the SR&S thread when it comes to this, but it just didn't jive with the other posts...)



 Posted: Fri Nov 30th, 2007 10:35 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
6th Post
BigPowell
Member


Joined: Fri Nov 30th, 2007
Location: USA
Posts: 24
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

The historian that publishes must keep his bias(es) under control whenever they start to raise their pointy little heads. We all are aware of our conscious biases (or at least we should be); but when writting history it is vitally important that the author constantly self-edit the work-in-progress to deal with the inevitable unconscious bias that will seep into the work. After completion of the first draft, review by "disinterested" peers and a really good editor is essential.



 Posted: Fri Nov 30th, 2007 10:38 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
7th Post
Kentucky_Orphan
Member


Joined: Wed Dec 20th, 2006
Location:  
Posts: 125
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Name one published historian with a notable bias? How about Michael Bellesiles? He was a historian at Emory who published Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture. It was awarded the bancroft prize by Columbia University? Hailed as a revolutionary piece of work, it challenged conventional wisdom about the status of firearms in American culture. Basically, the author asserted that firearms were not prevelant in colonial through mid 1800's (through the colonial years in fact, till the aftermath of the Civil War)-and even then not to the point many would believe.

Unfortunately for this much heralded, respected historian his radically different claims, when compared to the status quo up till that time, drew too much attention from others of a different view. While gun control groups were too busy praising the work to question its merits, pro-gun groups and other historians were checking facts. In the end, it was found that Mr. Bellesiles had either skewed sources to back up his claims, or made them up entirely.

As a result, even the gun control groups that had so loved his conclusions could not ignore the massive fraud that had taken place, and he was stripped of his awards and the book publisher halted circulation.

Now, this is certainly an extreme example, but that does not mean we cannot take lessons from it.



 Posted: Fri Nov 30th, 2007 11:32 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
8th Post
Johan Steele
Life NRA,SUVCW # 48,Legion 352


Joined: Sat Dec 2nd, 2006
Location: South Of The North 40, Minnesota USA
Posts: 1065
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Kentucky Orphan has brought up an excellent but extreme example. It's difficult to vet who is objective and who is not.

For me the biases that stick out are Dilorenzo and his outright fabrications, distortians and creative editing. Frankly though he is who stands out. I can think of no other that I would consider a reputable author exhibiting bias.

Over the years I've heard Sword, Edwards, Glathaar Trudeau and others described as having both a Southern or Northern bias depending upon who was talking.

Most of what I've seen are examples of someone not liking what was written claiming bias.

I gurantee in certain circles anything at all that Ole or I would say would be considered anti southern. Heck I've been referred to as the anti christ by some. Me? And I even admit I'm a touch to the right of Genghis Khan!

We've had threads like this on several boards in the past and they always seem to go nowhere.



 Posted: Fri Nov 30th, 2007 11:47 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
9th Post
javal1
Grumpy Geezer


Joined: Thu Sep 1st, 2005
Location: Tennessee USA
Posts: 1503
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Glad to see this thread take off so quickly - it should be a good one. I will most likely just sit back and learn, except for one comment. I think it's vital that we differentiate when the bias is, in fact, the author's and when it may be the reader's. A bias in the reader may well cause him to claim an author's bias when none exist. Just a pothole to look out for.

Edit: Sorry Johan, I see now you touched on that above. Good point.



 Posted: Sat Dec 1st, 2007 12:49 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
10th Post
ole
Member


Joined: Sun Oct 22nd, 2006
Location:  
Posts: 2027
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

I think it's vital that we differentiate when the bias is, in fact, the author's and when it may be the reader's.
One sentence. Awesome!

ole



 Posted: Sat Dec 1st, 2007 02:31 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
11th Post
JoanieReb
Member
 

Joined: Wed Jan 24th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 620
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

I think it's vital that we differentiate when the bias is, in fact, the author's and when it may be the reader's.
One sentence. Awesome!

ole


 

Ah, but it is a two-way street, both author and reader are biased.  Believe I touched on the idea of "over-lapping biases" in the SR&S thread.  We may be thinking that the most unbiased author is the one whom shares our own biases.

Whether I agree with an author or not, I get warning flags when I run into one whom wants to do all my thinking for me, lead me by the nose, so to speak.....




 Posted: Sat Dec 1st, 2007 04:54 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
12th Post
JoanieReb
Member
 

Joined: Wed Jan 24th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 620
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

BTW, I wish to say that while this is a good topic for debate, I think that I  have done Ole a disservice by making him out to be less insightful and more rigid than I meant to when I moved this discussion from the SR&S thread.  Ole gives me leaway and lets me joke and tease, and this all started out in fun mode, with an underlying seriousness.

I believe that Ole and I respect each other though we often disagree, and he gave me acedemic freedom to express myself, and I accidently may have misrepresented a bit of his original humor here as narrow-mindedness.

Sorry, Ole, I guess I didn't translate to this thread well. 

Never-the-less, Ole, it is a good debate, and I would be happy to carry it on, just please accept my apologies if I made you seem less "ept" than you were being.  Which was very "ept".

Thank you,

Joanie

Last edited on Sat Dec 1st, 2007 06:45 am by JoanieReb



 Posted: Sat Dec 1st, 2007 12:04 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
13th Post
susansweet
Member


Joined: Sun Sep 4th, 2005
Location: California USA
Posts: 1420
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Many, many years ago back in the dark ages when I was a college senior majoring in history I was required to take a class in Research in American History. One of the requirements was to read certain books and articles and critique them or take part in a class discussion.
One of the books we read was John Hope Franklin's The Militant South A book that list the factors and causes of the South's agression that contributes to the outbreak of war in 1861. He outlines the idea that the South was dominated by militant white men who resorted to violence if faced with social, personal or political conflict. All of this is backed up with research from newspapers, letters and personal memoirs.

We all read the book and started discussing it in class. Now this was a small college with in the Los Angeles area but with a Southern church background. The arguments were flying back and forth. The professor at some point stopped us and said, Would it help your discussion if you knew the author was a Negro?(this was another time period long long ago). He then pointed out to us how important it is to know your author . To know why he is writing what he is writing and where he is coming from with his writing . I can't tell you how many times since then I have looked up information about the authors of the books I have read to see who the author is.

Just so you know also that book has stuck with me all these years , still makes an impression on me today. I can't remember most of the books I read in my history classes back then but I remember that one . I also do remember always Dr. White's advice to us "know who is writing the book you are reading ."
Just my two cents worth .
Susan



 Posted: Sat Dec 1st, 2007 04:24 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
14th Post
Johan Steele
Life NRA,SUVCW # 48,Legion 352


Joined: Sat Dec 2nd, 2006
Location: South Of The North 40, Minnesota USA
Posts: 1065
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Lets suggest a few authors:


William C. Davis
Charles Dew
Thomas A. Desjardin
William Edwards
Robert William Fogel, & Stanley L Engerman
Douglas Southall Freeman
Joseph T. Glatthaar
Melton A. McLaurin
James M. McPherson
Steven H. Newton
Wiley Sword
Noah Andre Trudeau
C. Vann Woodward
Bell Irvin Wiley
Steven E Woodworth

These are all authors that I have heard accused of bias either anti Southern or pro southern... sometimes both. So please someone, put forward what makes any of these authors biased & why.



 Posted: Sat Dec 1st, 2007 04:48 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
15th Post
booklover
Member


Joined: Sat Jun 23rd, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 222
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

It seems that too many people get hung up on the term "bias" simply because it's seen as bad form to inject opinion into historical writing, but I would hold that not only is it necessary but a valuable service the author can offer. If I write that on April 14, 1865 Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed while watching a play in Ford's Theater, no one can accuse me of being biased because that's an acknowledged fact. However, if I add that Lincoln's own fatalistic view of life contributed to his murder because he wouldn't have a bodyguard, that delves into the realm of opinion, but I can back it up based on the research I've read and papers I've studied. So my "bias" is that Lincoln contributed to his own death, but it hopefully provokes discussion. But I also think that the crap put out by DiLorenzo, Tripp, etc., where one might say that they are obviously against Lincoln from the outset, or in the case of Tripp has an agenda to push, is just as important if only for the discussion they provoke. It does us good to have our opinions shaked and challenged every now and then if only to make us research and study even more. Shelby Foote's work is biased toward the Southern point of view, but it isn't any less valuable because of that. C. Vann Woodward was often viewed as a traitor to his section because he pointed out the heresy that Jim Crow wasn't an entrenched system so it couldn't be changed, but he himself was pleased to see this because of the discussion it prompted. Woodward even took to revising himself and encouraged those critics (see C. Vann Woodward, "Strange Career Critics: Long May They Persevere," Journal of American History 75 (December 1988), 862). I admit here that I have a bias in favor of Woodward simply because after receiving my degree in history, and pondering a turn as a graduate student, I wrote Woodward a letter and this world-class scholar actually took the time to respond (and typed the letter himself, as there are mistakes throughout).

So bias doesn't bother me, at least not in the way it seems to bother others. The only problem (and it's a biggie) is when someone reads only one author and then closes his or her mind to other interpretations. James McPherson is, in my opinion, one of the legends of the field, but until Battle Cry of Freedom is updated, he will likely lose his standing as the greatest living Civil War historian simply because the field is constantly changing and interpretations are being revised. Ahh, history, long may it persevere!

Does any of this make sense?

Best
Rob



 Posted: Sat Dec 1st, 2007 05:14 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
16th Post
Texas Defender
Member


Joined: Sat Jan 27th, 2007
Location: Texas USA
Posts: 920
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Johan-

  In the case of James M. McPherson, for example, it is easy to see why some view him as having an anti-southern bias due to his political views. In a 1999 interview, he basically said that those promoting and supporting the Museum of the Confederacy were white supremacists.

  He later attempted to clarify by saying that only some of those in organizations such as the UDC and SCV have a hidden agenda of white supremacy, and they might not even be aware of it, etc.

  The Museum, itself, he apparently no longer has a problem with. But, apparently, he still links racism to some of its supporters. That could well be true in some cases, as in any large group of people, but he taints all supporters of the Museum, those in the mentioned organizations or not, with his statements.

 

James M. McPherson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  As McPherson said in his statements, people might not even be aware of the biases that they have. Perhaps he is aware of his own, or at least the possibility that they exist.

  My position is that they do exist, for him as well as for everybody else. Not only is history told from a point of view, but those who read history have their own biases as well. Whether in the case of McPherson, that his possibly anti-southern bias shows up in his writings and can be detected, I cannot say.

  You could assemble a panel of experts to explore that question, but it would be a meaningless exercise. You could not find such a group of people who could be totally objective.

  All that you and I can do is to try to give as close as possible a consideration of what we read, and how it effects what we believe. In the end, we must decide how much credibility to give to it based on the author's point of view, as well as our own.



 Posted: Sat Dec 1st, 2007 07:36 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
17th Post
Don
Member


Joined: Thu Nov 15th, 2007
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado USA
Posts: 111
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

As BigPowell noted above: "We all are aware of our conscious biases (or at least we should be); but when writting history it is vitally important that the author constantly self-edit the work-in-progress to deal with the inevitable unconscious bias that will seep into the work. After completion of the first draft, review by "disinterested" peers and a really good editor is essential."

This is absolutely critical. Let's see if I can coherently transmit this from my brain to the post.

The historian is telling a story and providing an interpretation of available facts (hopefully with some new ones turned up during his/ her research). Much like a lawyer, the historian builds a case for the story they want to tell based on facts. Unacknowledged personal bias weakens this case by bringing into question the author's interpretation of the facts and whether or not the author considered all of the available facts or only those supporting his/ her position.

As several have already pointed out, some bias is inevitable. As BigPowell pointed out, a professional historian should take steps to eliminate it as much as possible. I think after this the author has be self-aware and honest enough to admit any residual bias and admit it so the reader can take it into account when they read the work. I think the author owes this to the reader. The reader of course should do the same thing with their own bias when reading the work.

I would also point out that an even-handed treatment of the facts can lead to problems as well. In a very well researched but poorly narrated book that I just finished, the author spent so much space and energy on a consideration of every available fact concerning an event that the book ended without a coherent narration of the event!



 Posted: Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 07:10 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
18th Post
JoanieReb
Member
 

Joined: Wed Jan 24th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 620
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Jumping back two posts....

Sigh.

As ususal, Texas Defender, You have been a bit too knowledgable, reasonable, and insightful, and so have taken the thread to a higher level.

To speak Northern  (I like to practice it!) : Wadda we gonna do with you?

Anyway, it's still a fun debate, even if you did take it to the most logical position.

Kudos,

Joanie

PS:  Don, also greatly appreciated what you added.  Thank You!

 

Last edited on Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 07:29 am by JoanieReb



 Posted: Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 12:51 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
19th Post
HankC
Member


Joined: Tue Sep 6th, 2005
Location:  
Posts: 517
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

JoanieReb wrote: Since it is obviously incongrous with the rest of the States Rights and Slavery thread, I guess I should step out of the shelter of said thread to continue with the "author bias" train of thought,  which started with this exchange:

Ole:  " Among the stable of published historians, name one who writes with a bias."

Me:  James M. McPherson.:P



 

My question would be 'is McPherson biased *because* of his research or *in spite* of it?' If the former, bully for him; if the latter, watch out.

Albert Castel gets skewered for his 'anti-Sherman bias'. Interestingy, in his preface, he writss that he was a Sherman fan prior to resarching 'Decision in the West' but his research lead to a different conclusion which he then passes on to the reader.

Historians are not journalists; their job is to distill facts and actions into lessons.

 

HankC



 Posted: Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 03:46 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
20th Post
JoanieReb
Member
 

Joined: Wed Jan 24th, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 620
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Historians are not journalists; their job is to distill facts and actions into lessons.


Hmmmm, I'm chewing, but I just can't swallow.....

Convince me? )__



 Current time is 07:21 pmPage:    1  2  3  Next Page Last Page  
Top




UltraBB 1.17 Copyright © 2007-2008 Data 1 Systems
Page processed in 0.2109 seconds (11% database + 89% PHP). 25 queries executed.