Should We Trust the State?
comments powered by Disqus
Jonathan Dresner - 8/2/2004
Professional history descends from the work of Ranke, who took government documents as a 'gold standard' of transparency. We know that's not true anymore, but they still, generally, hold up ok. At least they used to.
Before we dismiss a text as biased, generally we need to have: some evidence that there is an error or distortion; some sense of why the bias exists; a belief, rooted in other sources, that the bias/distortion/error is sufficiently great that it obviates the use of that source as evidence of anything except bias.
As Richman points out, bipartisanship mitigates against the likelihood of directly blaming any party figures, but that leaves a great deal of information in the report that is sound, sourced, and critical of governmental systems and functionaries.
That said, the disjunction between the information gathered by the government and the information released by the government has never, in my opinion, been greater than it is now.
- While French historians take a common view of WW I, British and German don't
- Historian: Proclamation Naming Pa. State Gun Gets Facts Wrong
- Irish slave owners were compensated historian reveals
- Two historians are in a race against time to preserve early church records from destruction
- Yale's Jay Winter sums up what we should remember about WW I