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Quotes About Historiography
the writing of history

"A historian has many duties. Allow me to remind you of two which are important. The first is not to slander; the second is not to bore."


" Any fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it."
Oscar Wilde


"History can be well written only in a free country."

    "History to be above evasion must stand on documents not on opinion."
Lord Acton


  "The historian should be fearless and incorruptible; a man of independence, loving frankness and truth; one who, as the poets says, calls a fig a fig and a spade a spade. He should yield to neither hatred nor affection, not should be unsparing and unpitying. He should be neither shy nor deprecating, but an impartial judge, giving each side all it deserves but no more. He should know in his writing no country and no city; he should bow to no authority and acknowledge no king. He should never consider what this or that man will think, but should state the facts as they really occurred."
Lucian (A.D. 120-200)


  "The older I get the more I'm convinced that it's the purpose of politicians and journalists to say the world is very simple, whereas it's the purpose of historians to say, 'No! It's very complicated.'
The job of the historian is to help give people a sense of existence in time, without which we are really not fully human."
David Cannadine


      "Historians have a responsibility to make some sense of the past and not just to repeat it."
Michael Howard


        Historians are not just dispassionate chroniclers. By their selection, ordering, highlighting, attribution and analysis of facts they fashion a particular version of the past. And they also play a part in the disputes of the present, by legitimising or undermining the rationales, heroes and myths which influence current debates. Historical figures are forever being conscripted for fresh cultural battles.
The London Times,
"Truth, trust and rewriting history"


"Each age writes the history of the past with reference to the conditions uppermost in its own time."
Frederick Turner


  "The writing of history reflects the interests, predilections, and even prejudices of a given generation."
John Hope Franklin


"Writing history is a perpetual exercise in judgment."
Cushing Strout


    "Without the imaginative insight which goes with creative literature, history cannot be intelligibly written."
C. V. Wedgwood


"Let the science and research of the historian find the fact and let his imagination and art make clear its significance."
George Trevelyan


"Faithfulness to the truth of history involves far more than a research, however patient and scrupulous, into special facts. Such facts may be detailed with the most minute exactness, and yet the narrative, taken as a whole, may be unmeaning or untrue. The narrator must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit of the time. He must study events in their bearings near and remote; in the character, habits, and manners of those who took part in them. He must himself be, as it were, a sharer or a spectator of the action he describes."
Francis Parkman


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Quotes About Historiography
the writing of history