Historian

Herodotus (c. 484–c. 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives.

A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past, and is regarded as an authority on it.[1] Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is concerned with events preceding written history, the individual is a historian of prehistory. Some historians are recognized by publications or training and experience.[2] "Historian" became a professional occupation in the late nineteenth century as research universities were emerging in Germany and elsewhere.

Objectivity

During the Irving v Penguin Books and Lipstadt trial, it became evident that the court needed to identify what was an "objective historian" in the same vein as the reasonable person, and reminiscent of the standard traditionally used in English law of "the man on the Clapham omnibus".[3] This was necessary so that there would be a legal bench mark to compare and contrast the scholarship of an objective historian against the illegitimate methods employed by David Irving, as before the Irving v Penguin Books and Lipstadt trial, there was no legal precedent for what constituted an objective historian.[3]

Justice Gray leant heavily on the research of one of the expert witnesses, Richard J. Evans, who compared illegitimate distortion of the historical record practice by holocaust deniers with established historical methodologies.[4]

By summarizing Gray's judgement, in an article published in the Yale Law Journal, Wendie E. Schneider distils these seven points for what he meant by an objective historian:[5]

  1. The historian must treat sources with appropriate reservations;
  2. The historian must not dismiss counter evidence without scholarly consideration;
  3. The historian must be even-handed in treatment of evidence and eschew "cherry-picking";
  4. The historian must clearly indicate any speculation;
  5. The historian must not mistranslate documents or mislead by omitting parts of documents;
  6. The historian must weigh the authenticity of all accounts, not merely those that contradict his or her favored view; and
  7. The historian must take the motives of historical actors into consideration.

Schneider uses the concept of the "objective historian" to suggest that this could be an aid in assessing what makes an historian suitable as an expert witnesses under the Daubert standard in the United States. Schneider proposed this, because, in her opinion, Irving could have passed the standard Daubert tests unless a court was given "a great deal of assistance from historians".[6]

Schneider proposes that by testing an historian against the criteria of the "objective historian" then, even if an historian holds specific political views (and she gives an example of a well-qualified historian's testimony that was disregarded by a United States court because he was a member of a feminist group), providing the historian uses the "objective historian" standards, he or she is a "conscientious historian". It was Irving's failure as an "objective historian" not his right wing views that caused him to lose his libel case, as a "conscientious historian" would not have "deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence" to support his political views.[7][8]