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Yes! No!
Debate Score:7
Total Votes:8
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 Yes! (3)
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Is History Subjective?


Side Score: 5


Side Score: 2

Of course history is subjective. When writing about any subject a historian will have his own point of view. A historian writing in 18th century France would be different than a historian writing in the U.S. in the 20th century.

Jane Austen wrote a satirical book called The History of England from the reign of Henry the 4th to the death of Charles the 1st By a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian. Now she was mocking a specific historian but her point is true about all historians. Every historian is partial and prejudiced in some way, and every historian is ignorant of at least some of the facts.

The only way to avoid this is to simply list facts, figures, and events without making any kind of commentary or conclusions no matter how apparent they may appear...but this isn't history at all. If a King of England did something 200 years ago there is no way to know why he did it, but reasonable speculation is necessary if you want to actually be able to understand the event in question.

The whole point of studying history is so that you can apply the lessons from then, today and without some subjective analysis this is impossible. Therefore history is, and always will be subjective.

Side: Yes!
2 points

Is there any difference between historians writing of the subject matter in hindsight and those writing about something they are witnessing now that might have some historical value in years to come? Are you saying that ALL history is and will be subjective as long as we live? Facts, figures and events are not subjective but the writers commentary may be. Can we not take everything being written about in any time frame with a grain of salt and still call it fact?

Side: Are all facts subjective thoughts
1 point

Understand that I am not saying history is not useful or cannot help us understand our world better; quite the opposite in fact. What I am saying is that historians do view events subjectively, no matter how hard they try to be objective. Now most historians can agree on major events, but causes and results of these events are often cloudy. For example, Woodrow Wilson's fourteen points are considered one of the indirect causes of Hitler's rise to power, and eventually WWII. This is an interpretation. Obviously it makes a lot of sense, has lots of evidence to support it, and is widely accepted, but it is still a subjective view because there is no way to know everything about something that happened in the past (until we invent time machines and history becomes much easier).

Allow me to give you a better example: the French Revolution. Many historians still don't completely agree how to interpret it. Marx for example interpreted it in a way that is considered incorrect by most modern historians. This is why his theories have lost credibility, he based his thesis on flawed observations. At the same time a conservative would see the revolution different then a liberal, who would see it different from a royalist etc... Here is where the reader of history must use his own judgment: Which view explains best what happened and makes the most sense?

Of course some interpretations should be given more weight then others, and of course some should be discarded as ridiculous...but whenever you look at history you need to be aware that much of what you are reading is through the lens of the author's bias's and human shortcomings.

I'll leave you with one final example. Imagine a historian from the 18th century writing about slavery in Rome. Now imagine one from today. You would receive a very different perspective possibly weighted towards the experience of the owner or the slave.

Side: Yes!
1 point

It is subjective because History is spelled his + story.

His story. Someone's story.

Side: Yes!
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