Is it fair how we judge History?

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I would like to open this up for debate, the fact that we judge history and those that made history, today, with the benefit of hindsight? Is that fair?

I don’t think there will be a definitive answer to this debate and I’m sure that more learned academics than myself, will have studied this topic at great length and argued and debated it almost to death.

My argument is, we see more and more in the media today, many so called experts pouring over decisions made sometimes a generation or two ago, sometimes even centuries ago, how can they possibly know exactly what was happening at that precise moment in time? How can you possibly judge the thought process, the state of mind and the peer pressures and the many other factors that made the political and historic figures of yester year do what they did? You cannot possibly judge them without the knowledge and hindsight we have today, your knowledge and intelligence today must bias your view of those that made the historic decisions. Can we really safely judge those that made the catastrophic errors on the battle fields fairly? We know for example of the tragic loss of life from War, but did those in command really know at the exact moment they sent the troops into battle, that the loss of life would be so catastrophic?

History

We live in a judgmental world today where we need to put things into nice little boxes to make us understand things clearly. Unfortunately I think that sometimes we forget that the lines are blurred and things don’t always fit neatly into a box. So can we lay blame to those that made history? We can certainly say that mistakes were made whether it was from the two World Wars or historic battles and crusades from the last two centuries, but do we have the right to question it?

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It’s not about being right or wrong, to me it’s about how you can safely say that the decisions taken hundreds of years ago were the incorrect ones, without actually being there.

History is exactly that……………..it’s history at that precise moment in time.

Please see my regular blog for Family Tree Magazine Here

15 thoughts on “Is it fair how we judge History?

  1. I agree. In wdytya they make a big think of slavery, the injustice etc. Of which I agree but we can’t keep apologising for everything in the past, India etc. We can’t judge the past by our modern views.

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  2. No matter how far you go back, pretty much of it is all relevent today, in varying degrees. Everything is judged by society today, but only in the context of today, and not historically.
    I’m fed up with being made to feel the guilt of my forefathers. I wasn’t there.
    But like most things in life, we’ve reaped what’s been sown(historically). It can’t be changed.

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  3. A terrific column. I find it frustrating that a number of writers try to put 21st century ideas, morals, etc into historical figures’ actions. Much of the time in biographies the reasons given for famous individuals’ beliefs or historical events are shoe horned into through 21st psychological observations. Sometimes I think the only things we can count on in history are the actual date something happened. I find it funny as well somewhat disconcerting that in discussing Julius Caesar, many of my friends run his life through their readings of Shakespeare as it he was a valid historian and that’s just one example.

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  4. `!. Ibn Khaldoun stated that the farther away from an event we are, the less we can know about that event. Simply put it means that what you think you know about what happened on the basis on another’s opinion is false. .. History, by the way, is another’s opinion about a given point in time based upon that individual’s perspective, perception, ‘knowledge’, and sources. Just because someone says or writes a thing doe snot give them credibility.
    As an example: In the Christian Bible, a man named Paul wrote many things about Issa/Jesus which was presented as of he were an eye witness; however, Paul never met Issa as he, Paul, was not born until the 3rd c AD. the same can be said of the other apostles.

    2. Records are only as good (or as bad) as the source and the individual recording the data or, in the case of an eyewitness, what they think they saw or remember. Family documents can lead others horribly astray, census data is ripe with error, and original birth certificates/adoptee birth certificates can be -and often are- full of discrepancies.

    3. We of the now 21st C cannot and dare not make assumptions and certainties of those born long before us because of changing mores, habits, law, and what was customary and usual than that is not so today.

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  5. I think you are absolutely on to something here. I have long argued that we cannot judge the events of yester year with our modern eyes and mindsets because those change.

    I think it is an interesting academic exercise to wonder why a certain ancestor acted in a certain way during that certain time but judging that ancestor with TODAY’s worldview is inappropriate.

    Great post! Found this on Reddit(link below) and I’m saving the blog for further review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you and thanks for sharing your thoughts, hindsight is a powerful and wonderful tool, but so is context. You have to put things into the context of the era that they happened, not easy to do, but you cannot make judgements based on your knowledge today.

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  6. I agree with what you wrote. Something that has me a little worried is that nowadays we need to voice our dislike about everything.
    I read the Story of an American woman getting married in a Japanese traditional dress. And there was an outrage. Cultural apropriation etc. They asked Japanese people and they loved it.

    In the Netherlands they wanted to take down statues because heroes of old dont match with current thoughts and times.

    I myself try to judge everything on how the moment was.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Michael, we can never fully judge a moment of history unless we were there at the time. It’s difficult to not subconsciously judge history with the knowledge we have today. To subjectively judge history with all the facts is a difficult thing to do

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad that you enjoyed the blog, I agree totally, History without context is no more than story telling, we need clarify the content with details of the moment in time, History is fluid it never stands still.

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