History and the Problem of Bias

HistoryOne of the challenges for doing history in any area is that of bias. This can appear in number of ways, from the bias of our sources to the bias of our interpretation.

We should not become too discouraged by this. I strongly disagree with those who say we can’t do history because of bias.

There are ways that we can do history with integrity and comes as close to the truth as possible. I would like to share a few things that can help us as we study the past.

  • Attempt to use as wide a range of sources, in terms of perspectives, as possible. This means those who who were both friendly and hostile toward the event.
  • Try to find as many types of sources, such as documents, archaeological evidence, etc.
  • Identify the bias of the sources. Attempt to determine how much their bias affected what they produced.
  • Identify your own bias. How strongly do you hold your view? What kind of evidence would make you change your mind?
  • How does all the evidence fit together? What theory makes most sense of the available evidence?
  • Don’t give up. If we wait for completely unbiased evidence, we will never get it because it doesn’t exist.

History is one of the most interesting topics in our world. There are challenges but the presence of bias doesn’t make it impossible.

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