Objectivity and Bias in the Study of History: Is Objectivity Achievable?

The article I was assigned to read and critique dealt with explaining the practice of history as a scientific endeavor, rather than as a subsection of literature. The author, Mamta Aggarwal, begins her argument by stating that when writing or studying history it is inevitable that there will be subjectivity and personal bias. Her argument is centered on her understanding of human nature as being naturally biased to the perspective, society, faith, political views and personal experience of the historian studying any event in history.

She further argues that for each individual historian the narrative they inherently bring to the table when analyzing an event will always cloud their analysis and their conclusions about the event. Her conclusion is that while it may be impossible to totally remove bias from the equation when studying a historical event, there are methods to use that can limit these biases, and provide a more balanced and objective understanding of the event.

While I am inclined to agree with her premise that you cannot totally erase bias when studying history, I think she takes a particularly negative view on the objectivity of history. Perhaps it is her background in India, and her experience of dealing with colonial and imperial history written from the British perspective that gives her an aggreived stance on the study of history in general. This aggreived stance is justifiable, and I can understand her persepctive, however I think she herself is bringing a slew of her own subjective biases in writing this article. I do think that historians, while unable to write pure, absolute, and totally objective historical narratives, are able to provide reasonably objective conclusions and understanding of historical events. Granted that they police themselves during the source finding, source analysis and are willing to submit that they have biases which they must be aware of when writing or studying history. She lists this as a potential means to make history more objective, but seems to think it is an impossible task.

“Objectivity And Bias In The Study Of History”. 2013. History Discussion – Discuss Anything About History. Accessed September 4 2017. http://www.historydiscussion.net/history/objectivity-and-bias-in-the-study-of-history/632.

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