Taking into account the nature of historical truth, it cannot be viewed from absolutist position, but rather from relativist perspective. The values, dictated by the certain epoch, determine the purpose and the context of history, so there is a number of historical biases (again, from modern viewpoint) in the writings, describing and explaining the past experiences. The paper is designed to focus on the main historical biases and highlight the influence of modern media on the construction of new biases.
Due to the fact that there is a plenty of historiographic schools, one can presume that each of them chooses specific symbol or aspect as a baseline and develops its argument through certain prism. In this sense, the book by Edwars Said, ‘Orientalism’, to great extent emphasizes the faultiness of Western historiographic approach to the diametrically opposite culture.
The scholar writes: “The Orient is not only adjacent to Europe; it is also the place of Europe’s greatest and richest and oldest colonies, the source of its civilizations and languages, its cultural contestant, and one of its deepest and most recurring images of the Other” (Said, 1979, pp. 1-2). Orientalism therefore comprises the historically biased attitude towards the cultural ‘otherness’, so the author concludes that eastern studies cannot be completely independent from the polarization and confrontation between the two civilizations.
Furthermore, social stratification determined the status of certain individual in society and consequently resulted in the creation of ‘middle class’ or ‘aristocratic’ approach to making historical notes, and, more importantly, religious approach had been predominant in this sense over more than a thousand years the issues related to heresy and Inquisition contributed to medieval historiography, whereas the social protest against religious dogmas was an overall Western historiographic framework in the 18th -20th centuries.
Both approaches naturally distorted objective reality in an attempt to fit it into narrow Procrustean bed of sociopolitical context. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that the purpose of history hasn’t been static over the societal developmental course – it has altered a number of times – from the simple glorification of the certain ruler’s deeds to the formation of public consciousness and stereotypes.
Historians, as the members of society, naturally shared most stereotypes and social convictions , even writing purely ‘for the sake of history’. Nowadays, historical biases are close-knit to the issues, which arise in connection with social, gender and racial equality, so the modern media are concentrating on covering these issues and determining public opinion.
Information therefore is presented is extremely available manner, which allows remembering the content of the article without any ‘unnecessary’ reflections or more profound analysis. The ‘raw’ information (news, editorials) has attractive cover, so the digestion and informational metabolism have been enhanced over the last century, whereas the description of events still remains biased in terms of the author’s political and social position, or personal views.
On the other hand, the freedom of printed word prohibits the misrepresentation of facts, yet the interpretation of certain data still may vary among journalists – this principle is widely used to put the most appropriate and suitable emphases, thus except the provision of recent news, media are responsible for creating images, persuading public and imposing certain moral or ethical evaluation of the event or phenomenon (for more utility and convenience, from the position of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’).
To sum up, it is impossible to eradicate historical biases – historiography, like all descriptive and analytical sciences, follows relativist principles of ‘minor’ or ‘major’ truth. Nevertheless, with regard to high availability of historical writings, one has an opportunity to analyze the positions of several historiographic schools and draw more independent conclusions.
Courtney from Study Moose
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