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Bias and the Historian

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 February 1935

Abstract

ALL historians are biassed. There is no great harm in that; indeed it is inevitable. The trouble is that some historians are not aware of their bias. “I write without anger or favour, remote as I am from both these things” (“Sine ira et studio, quorum causas procul habeo”), boasted Tacitus, and there is no doubt that he made his claim in good faith. But two comments may be permitted. First his attempt at impartiality detracted from the value of his history. “The Roman historians” said Mommsen, “were men who said what it would have been meritorious to omit, and omitted what it was essential to say.” Again, for all his effort, Tacitus did not attain to impartiality. So much impressed was he,—to take only one instance,—by the contrast between slavish Roman and free barbarian, that his accounts of Germans and Britons must be taken with more than one grain of salt. His history, in other words, was conditioned by his own experience, his own environment, his own heredity.

Citation

MACKIE, J.D. (1935), "Bias and the Historian", Library Review, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 50-58. https://doi.org/10.1108/eb011988

Publisher

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MCB UP Ltd

Copyright © 1935, MCB UP Limited