View single post by Don
 Posted: Sat Dec 1st, 2007 07:36 pm
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Don
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Joined: Thu Nov 15th, 2007
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado USA
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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!

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