History is written by the winners....

January 28, 2007 5:46pm CST
...does that mean that our understanding of the past is biased. If so what parts of this worlds history do you think may need re-examining?
2 people like this
5 responses
@abroji (3247)
• India
21 Feb 07
History should not be the description of biographies of some kings and war lords, and narration of their war campaigns. Then what should be history? History should be a social narration of the improvement of mankind from the most primitive conditions to contemporary civilization. Karl Marx and Frederik Engles have evaluated history in their Communist Manifesto with a social out look. They put society in the centre of history. History should be society centered. But our mainstream history puts all those kings, war lords and modern democratic leaders in the centre. Due possition is not given to the society. The statement that history is written by the winners should be rewritten as history is written by the exploiters with a view to further exploit the society in a more effective way.
24 Feb 07
thanks for joining in, loved the last line.
• Germany
10 Mar 07
abroji, I totally agree with you. The general view on history has too much focus on the "celebrities" instead of seeing society as a whole thing. There are theories developed by Marx and Engels that may be wrong but they provided one of the best descriptions of human progress in history I've ever read. Maybe one can say they were biased too by conceiving history only as a conflict between different social classes but in my opinion that approach is very close to reality. On the other hand, it is difficult to deny that social progress was also driven by outstanding individuals who had the charisma to spread new ideas that changed the entire society and therefore deserve the attention of history writers.
@skydancer (2101)
• United States
12 Feb 07
I believe that when reporting history, one needs to give the solid facts, and back those up with cited sources and other solid evidence - or at the very least some pretty sound reasoning. Tell what what various people did and said without giving your judgment on it. Any opinions that come into play should not be one-sided but should showcase both sides of the argument. Same goes with any historical events that may have happened. It should be those who read and study the history who decide for themselves what to make of it. When people start evaluating history using their political beliefs and whatnot, it gets to be a problem (unless it is clear that said piece of historical writing is written for a certain political audience). I do often think accounts of history and even accounts of today's current events are mostly dominated by the famous and the popular, I don't know about the winners as in whoever won the war or won the election that year. I don't think everyone's understanding of the past is biased. I think you're more likely to have a biased point of view if you rely on sources that tell you what you want to hear as opposed to telling it like it is and leaving you to form an opinion as to whether it should have happened the way it did or not. Or believing whatever the common belief seems to be is another mistake because there are times when the majority are the ones who are mistaken. Saying that, I don't like sources that openly (be it outright or subtly) bash politicians and other figures as if you're suppose to hate them (or even praise them as if you're supposed to love them). History shouldn't tell you who and what to like and dislike, and a lot of people who nowadays publish various sources tend to go down that road a little too easily. The history itself is what it is. I am not sure I the history itself needs re-examining so much as the way we are presenting it to other people needs re-examining. Many people seem to believe that published opinion equals history, and if enough people get out say something with enough confidence in their belief, people will start accepting it as truth whether or not it is - and a lot of what gets out there is published opinion form majority leaders, and celebrities, and just wheoever has the popularity. So I think when discussing anything history-related whether it's the evolution of American capitalism or the current war on terrorism we need to be careful that we make it so that others can learn about it from a perspective that is unbiased and not so one-sided, and the effective way to do that is to merely elaborate on what happened, and make that the focus in the presentation. Evaluating history through political or perhaps religious is all great, and makes for some intriguing discussion, but the history itself should tell what happened without turning it into an editorial-type report that only people of this political orientation or that religious orientation will identify with because history should be open to all points of view.
14 Feb 07
thanks for taking the time to write such an eloquent piece, a fantastic contribution to the thread.
1 person likes this
@Randync (544)
• United States
12 Feb 07
Yes history is written with a bias. I think we should look at the American Civil War. People want to believe it was about slavery. Yes slavery was an issue but only one. It was also about States Rights, and like all wars it was really about power and money. The rich Southerners wanted to keep their way of life, Slavery put money in their pockets. Powers in the North wanted to control or influence the South and put money in their own pockets.
12 Feb 07
slavery is always used as the big issue as it serves more politically correct ideologies of the present day, but as you said it was only one small issue. Many northern gentry also had slaves. It was more about the difference in ideas regarding styles of government between the industrial north and the agricultural south. Thanks for your contribution.
1 person likes this
• Philippines
29 Jan 07
Historians, writers, journalists... whatever you call them, they all have their biases and prejudices. Human as we are, we can never detach our subjectivity. Objective is a misnomer whether we like it or not and the only field wherein one can apply objectivity is in Science.A lot of historians were educated people born in cities where the population was concentrated. Thus, the history of those living in far-flung villages were not heard. "The history of the inarticulate" usually depicts the lives of poor, powerless men in the society. The challenge for our historians today is to revisit the past and heed every small detail which, no matter how minute it is, could surely contribute largely for world history. I despise the Iranian president's denial of the Holocaust. This is one serious matter which historians must pay attention to. History is all about social truths and nobody must conceal it from us, not an abusive tyrant nor a clumsy historian.
29 Jan 07
thank you both for wonderful thoughts on the subject
1 person likes this
@freesoul (3022)
• Egypt
29 Jan 07
Yes it's true that history is written by the winners and a lot of historians re-examining the written history were able to discover some forgotten events .. and although in modern times there is no monopoly on "writing history" the "official stories" of the winners are always more credible and persistent in people's minds.