24 January 2008

Becker and Everyman 1932

Irreducible Bias

In his presidential address to the American Historical Association in 1931, Carl Becker stated in part:

Even the most disinterested historian has at least one preconception, which is the fixed idea that he has none. The facts of history are already set forth, implicitly, in the sources; and the historian who could restate without reshaping them would, by submerging and suffocating the mind in diffuse existence, accomplish the superfluous task of depriving human experience of all significance. Left to themselves, the facts do not speak; left to themselves they do not exist, not really, since for all practical purposes there is no fact until someone affirms it.
Becker, "Everyman his own Historian," American Historical Review (1932), 233.

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