Quotations About the Historical Method

I. The historian Selects a Subject for Investigation

"The past is not dead, it is not even past."
           William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

"The historian is part of the present and therefore subject to the values, the needs, and the concerns of his society. Consequently, the questions he asks about the past are frequently ones that reflect present interests . . . Indeed it is the responsibility of the historian to describe a community's past in terms that are meaningful to the present."
                                                                          Ramsay Cook, The Craft of History

"Select a subject that is interesting and important . . . it should seem so to the researcher and to a fair part of his audience."
                                                                  R. J. Shafer, A Guide to Historical Method

"Our interest in the past is really our interest in the present."
                                                                  Peter Collum, Education Journal, 2005

"What determines the questions the historian puts? . . . That question is determined by his interest in it, the interest arising out of his experiences."
                                                                   W. L. Morton

"Historians ask questions about past events or developments and try to explain them. History is a problem-solving discipline."
         John Hollitz

II. The Historian Applies the Historical Method

1. Collects Evidence
"All history, so far as it is not supported by contemporary evidence is romance."
                                                                                                     Samuel Johnson

"History is all the remains that have come down to us from the past, studied with all the critical and interpretative power that the present can bring to the task."
                                                                                      Frederick Jackson Turner

"History is the attempt to recreate and explain the significant features of the past on the basis of fragmentary and imperfect evidence."
                                                                                                     Terry Crowley

"History is not a body of knowledge but a heap of materials which survives from the past."
                                                                                 The Economist, 13 April 2013

"History is not the past . . . History is the distillation of evidence surviving from the past. Where there is no evidence there is no history."
                                                                              Oscar Handlin, Truth in History

"The evidence available to the historian is not "fact" but testimony on the facts."
                                                                R. J. Shafer, A Guide to Historical Method

"We shouldn't choose only those records that portray past events in a positive light. The truth of history is woven from many sources, and it is only when history is presented in its entirety that it can support the free exchange of ideas that lies at the heart of a democratic society."
                                                                                                        Jim Bronskill

2. Analyses Evidence
"One eye-witness is better than ten hearsays."
                                                                                                      Legal proverb

"To read without reflecting, is like eating without digesting."
                                                                                                     Edmund Burke

"Faithfulness to history involves far more than research, the narrator must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit of the times."
                                                                                                    Francis Parkman

"The gift of historical thinking which is better than historical learning."
                                                                                                          Lord Acton

"I have always told a jury that if a fact is fully proved by two witnesses [reliable and independent?] it is as good as if proved by a hundred."
                                                                                             Walther Lawry Buller

"An idea does not pass from one language to another without change."
                                                                                              Miguel De Unamuno

"The golden rule . . . history has to be based upon a neutral reading of documents."
                                                                                              Fustel de Coulanges

"In assessing the value . . . of evidence, the vital element is that of time: when did the witness say it, when did he write it? The human memory, one soon discovers, is a very frail instrument. . . The best historical evidence is evidence recorded at the time."
                                                                Charles Perry Stacey, A Date With History

"No witness except God could tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and up to now he has not appeared in my court as a witness."
                                                      S. Tupper Bigelow, The Toronto Star, 1 July 1976

"I read as widely as possible because it pays to be skeptical and never to form an opinion based on a single source of information . . . Readers owe it to themselves to look at events from more than one point of view."
                                                                    Stephen Hume, The Sun , 31 July 2003

"We approached history as a discipline requiring critical skills rather than as a narrative of received truths that students needed to ingest."
                                                      Margaret Conrad, Textbook Wars: Canadian Style

"The investigatory work conducted in the lab-centred history class is exactly that: interrogating historical sources to develop and defend a source-based interpretation that responds to a question about the past."
                                                              Bruce A. Lesh, Teaching Historical Thinking

"The first law of story-telling . . . 'Every man is bound to leave a story better than he found it.'"
                                                                                             Mary Humphrey Ward

"A major part of the historical method relates to efforts to find corroborative evidence and weigh its quality, or to resolve problems arising from contradictory evidence, by corroboration for one explanation or another."
                                                                 R. J. Shafer, A Guide to Historical Method

"The impartiality of history is not that of the mirror, which merely reflects objects but that of the judge who sees, listens, and decides."
                                                                                          Alphonse de Lamartine

"There's an awful lot of evidence for the existence of Santa Claus, you know. The problem is that none of it happens to be very good evidence."
                                                       James Rani, The Globe and Mail, 13 April 1985

"Learning is really about perspectives, learning them, analyzing them, evaluating them."
                                                       Pat Clarke, Teacher Magazine, Jan./Feb. 2002

"The contextualizing of the history and the presentation of the complexity of perspectives on the events give students a foundation for making judgments or for working out reasoned responses to difficult questions."
                                                          Pat Clarke, Teacher Magazine, Jan./Feb. 2002

"Are we using our knowledge of the values and beliefs existing at the time to interpret the people, events and practices of the past?"
                                  Historical Perspective – The Critical Thinking Consortium

"We need to produce critical consumers of the media, asking the right questions to determine the reliability and credibility of sources."
                                                       Marty Baron, Managing Editor, Washington Post

"It is now generally accepted . . . that written documents do not contain objective truths, but provide information shaped by the cultural biases and perspectives of their authors."
                                                                                          Raymond D. Fogelson

"Historical study in school should help move students from being passive recipients of received truths to becoming active interrogators and producers of historical accounts."
                                                                                  Penney Clark and Alan Sears

The section II "The Historian 2 Biases and Prejudices" also applies to evidence.

 3. Selects Evidence

"There is a story to be told in school history texts and in telling that story, choices need to be made, as to what is to be included, and what is to be excluded.”
                                                                                                       Penney Clark

"Sharing a history is about choosing which past stories to emphasize."
                                                                                                       Douglas Todd

"History is on every occasion the record of that which one age finds worthy of note in another."
                                                                                                   Jacob Burckhardt

"The secret of historical composition is to know what to neglect."
                                                                                                           Lord Bryce

"History may be used to support any conclusion, according to the emphasis of our conscious or unconscious principle of selection."
                                                                                  G. Lowes Dickinson, Religion

"The historian cannot tell us every fact of what happened in the past; he inevitably selects from a great number of events and facts the ones he thinks are important."
                               Norman F. Canton and Richard I. Schneider, How to Study History

"To draw the curtain over unpleasant happenings in history is not less to be deplored than conscious falsification. The selectivity of the historian is revealing."
                                                 Virgil J. Vogel, The Indian in American History, 1968

"There's never only one story . . . its always a subjective assessment of what's important and what isn't . . . authors put themselves in the story."
                                                                      Charlotte Gray, The Sun, 14 June 2014

"As they work, historians must make choices. A point of view [bias] guides and limits, the selection of sources as well as the analysis of sources . . . the decisions of historians about what is worthy and significant."
                                                                         David Kobrin, Beyond the Textbook

"Selection is, in fact, twofold: first the selection of a subject, and second, the choice of facts to be presented in the development of that subject."
                                                                                                        W. L. Morton

"History as it is written is not the past, it is a representation of the past. It is a selection of the facts of the past."
                                                                           Ramsay Cook, CBC, 16 June 2013

"It is proper to demand that an historian be thorough, fair and impartial in seeking and using all the evidence, not just evidence which accords with his preconceptions or supports his thesis. . . – that is, they set forth the pros and cons in true proportion."
                                                                 R. J. Shafer, A Guide to Historical Method

"So much of the history of this nation [Canada] has been erased, underplayed, or forgotten because it didn't fit the dominant society."
                                                                                                David McIllwrath

4. Organizes Evidence

"Every historian's work – that is, his selection of facts, his emphasis, his omissions, his organization, his method of presentation – bears a relation to his own personality and the age and circumstances in which he lives."
                                             Charles A. Beard, The Philosophy of History in Our Time

"The writer of popular history must discover a design, a pattern, into which all these endlessly varied threads of research can be woven, and which will yet have meaning, intelligibility, and significance for the reader."
                                                                        Donald Creighton, 19 February 1945

"All historians are imposing all the time a pattern of their own discovery upon their material."
                                                                                               Richard Pares, 1956

"I discovered the fascination of reconstructing history from the records left by the men who made it, fitting it together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle."
                                                                              C. P. Stacey, A Date With History

"History is far less about truth than it is about identifying shapes and patterns."
                                                    John Raulston Saul, Reflections of a Siamese Twin

5. Interprets Evidence

“History is an unending dialogue between the present and the past.”
                                                                                       E. H. Carr

"It is the mind which creates the world about us, and even though we stand side by side in the same meadow, my eyes will never see what is beheld by yours, my heart will never stir to the emotions with which yours is touched."
                                                                                            George Gissing, 1907

"The main part of intellectual education is not the acquisition of facts but learning how to make facts live."
                                                                                          Oliver Wendell Holmes

"Two historians, working with the same historical materials and agreeing on basic facts, can arrive at two entirely different explanations for the same event."
                                                                  David Bercuson and Douglas Wertheimer

"An interpretation of historical material is merely a writer's explanation of the significance of a series of events, an epoch, or a movement."
                                                                                                         Allan Nevins

"History . . . is not just opinion. It is interpretation grounded in evidence."
                                                    Linda S. Levstik and Keith C. Barton, Doing History

"The first duty of the historian . . . is to establish what happened: the facts. After that . . . establishing why it happened and philosophizing about its importance in the cosmic scheme of things."
                                                                            C. P. Stacey, A Date With History

"Any national history turns out to be a photograph of our own brief age, speaking to us and our children, and discarded by them when they have no further need."
                                                                                                   Desmond Morton

"A philosophy of history is an effort to explain the grand patterns of human social development."
                                                                  R. J. Shafer, A Guide to Historical Method


"[After evaluating evidence] the historian develops an interpretation of the past that is logical and consistent with all the available evidence."
                                                                                                    Robin Fisher

"Finding meaning in the facts of the past, then, is the central challenge of history. It requires us to ask questions and construct explanations––mental activities far different and far more exciting than merely memorizing names, dates and facts. More important, it enables us to approach history as critical thinkers. The more skilled we become at historical reasoning, the better we will understand our world and ourselves."
                                                                                                        John Hollitz

"History includes only selected parts of the past; second, it is limited by the available evidence; third it is communicated in forms shaped by people with particular perspectives and purposes, it is never told from and external neutral standpoint."
                                                                                                                           Penney Clark and Alan Sears

III. The Past – the Evidence

Physical Remains
"Museum collections are subjective interpretations of cultural beliefs and values."
                                                                    Johanna K. Mizgala, Racism, Eh!, 2004

"I never realized that there was history too, close at hand, beside my very own home. I did not realize that the old grave that stood among the brambles at the foot of our home was history."
                                                                                                   Stephen Leacock

"Archaeology is the study of the human past using material remains. These remains can be any objects that people created, modified, or used."
                                                                                              National Geographic

"Objects allow us to reconstruct the past."
                                             Sarah Parcak

"Part of history is tracing artifacts and looking at patterns."
                                                                      A. C. Riddle

2. Verbal Reports

"The thing that's important is that the songs [of the Pacific Northwest] be known: they are part of who we are."
                                                                                                         Phil Thomas

"A man's character is revealed by his speech."

"Speech is a mirror of the soul; as a man speaks, so is he."
                                                                                                      Publilius Syrus

3. Visual Documents

a. paintings

"Murals are works of art, not historical records."

"Paint me as I am. If you leave out the scars and wrinkles, I will not pay you a shilling."
                                                                                                    Oliver Cromwell

"Every artist writes his own autobiography."
                                                                                     Henry Havelock Ellis, 1890

"The function of the artist is to disturb, to arouse the sleeper   and shake the compliant pillars of the world. In a world terrified of change, it is the artist who preaches change, the principle of life."
                                                                                                         Rod Langley

"Art is not a mirror but a hammer."
               John Grierson, first Commissioner of the National Film Board of Canada, 1939

"The greatness of an artists' work is measured by the depth and intensity of his feelings and emotions towards it, and towards life, and how much of these he has been able to implant and express in that work."
                                                                                                            Emily Carr

"Art at its most significant is a Distant Early Warning System that can always be relied upon to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it."
                                                                                                  Marshall McLuhan

"To me, the most important thing in a piece of art is the thought. Technique is totally secondary."
                                                                                                   Robert Bateman

"Man in Canadian art is rarely in command of his environment or ever at home in it."
                                                                                                 Elizabeth Kilbourn

"Historical artworks express particular ideological perspectives representative of the class, gender, region and political position of artists and their publics."
                                                                                   John Berger, Ways of Seeing

"A work of art is a conscious human effort that has to do with communication. It is that, or it is nothing."
                                                                                    Orson Wells, Playboy, 1967

“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.”
                                                                                                       Pablo Picasso

"All art is an interpretation and a recreation of the facts."
                                                                   Elisa Lorello

"Visual representations are  . . . constructed accounts that reflect the perspective and purposes of the artist or his or her sponsors ."
                                                                                                         Kevin Kee

“The arts present opportunities to closely examine how personal, social, religious, economic and political motivations affect artistic representations."
                                                                                                    Kevin Kee

"Art . . . it a work of imagination. It is not a literal representation."
                                                                        Malcolm Gladwell

"Art is history . . . it narrates the past for public consumption."
                                                   Penney Clark and Alan Sears

"Visual representations are not simply traces of the past to be accepted as evidence but are constructed accounts that reflect the perspective and purposes of the artist and his or her sponsors."
                                                                                   Penney Clark and Alan Sears

"All art is propaganda."
               George Orwell

"The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things but their inward significance."

b. posters

"The intellectual level of the propaganda must be lower the larger the number of people who are to be influenced by it."

                                                                               Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, 1935

"Propaganda is communication in a moment. Works of  propaganda must therefore be direct and are expendable. . . Art is communication which takes longer and demands contemplation. Works of art therefore should be enduring . . . which involves serious formal consideration . . . Propaganda deals in answers while art deals in questions."
                                                                                   Arthur Fuller, May June 1975

c. photographs

"The camera cannot lie, but it can be an accessory to untruth."

                                                                                               Harold Evans, 1978

"While photographs may not lie, liars may photograph."
                                                                                                           Lewis Hine

"The moment that a photographer selects a subject, he is working upon the basis of a bias that is parallel to the bias expressed by an historian."
                                                                                                          Roy Stryker

"Quite small and ineffectual demonstrations can be made to look like the beginning of a revolution if the cameraman is in the right place at the right time."
                                                                                                    Gough Whitlam

"Nothing can be so deceiving as a photograph."
                                                                                                          Franz Kafka

"If the camera never lies, neither does it tell the whole truth."
                                       Daniel Francis, The Imaginary Indian

"What was the person taking the photograph trying to capture?"
                                                                         Karine Duhamel 

d. film

"Film . . . crafted three basic Indian types. There was the bloodthirsty savage, the noble savage, and the dying savage."

                                                            Thomas King, The Inconvenient Indian, p.34

"Hollywood surely would have been foolish to attempt to do the American cowboy or the winning of the West realistically."
                                                                                                    W. R. Robinson

e. caricatures

"Cartoonists, if they are doing their job, undermine authority and encourage skeptical attitudes."

                                                                                               Dan Murphy

"Political cartoons are visual editorials."
                                                 Merle Tingley, London Free Press, 5 September 1964

"A caricature is usually the portrait of a person, which in its distortion and exaggeration reveals the true personality of the subject."
                                                                  Canadian Cartoon and Caricatures, 1969

"Peterson said his method is to decide who he thinks, essentially, is right and who is wrong – and then to draw the cartoon with the 'wrong' side all but muted. 'You have to do it that way,' he contends. 'An editorial cartoon has just got to come down fairly hard on one side or another if it is to be successful. It's got to be stated in black-and-white terms to have any impact on a reader loafing through the newspaper.'"
                                                                  The Sun, Vancouver, 11 September 1969

"My job is to attack power."
                                                                               Roy Peterson, cartoonist, 2003

"The purpose of a cartoon is to create discussion, discourse and debate. The purpose of those murderers (Charlie Hebro, Paris, 2015) was to end it."
                                                                        Bob Krieger, Metro, 14 January 2015

"Cartoons give ideas, facts and events an intelligible shape that renders them accessible."
Dominic Hardy, Annie Gérin and Lora Carney

f. monuments and memoirials

"Statues of persons are dehumanizing. The abbreviated version of history does not allow space for the individual's failures or acknowledge their struggles in history. Every individual is flawed. Viewers need to critically engage with statues. They need to know the context of the time when the statue was erected in order to understand why the statue is there."
                       Sean Graham and Tonya Davidson, Decoding Monuments and Memorials

"Statues are a romanticized version of history."
                                                                                                     Rumsha Ahmed

4. Written Documents

a. diaries

"In the diary King escaped from the prying eyes of the public, the press, and his political friends and foes. In the diary he revealed himself, set out his own personality, and indicated the spiritual nature of his yearnings and his soul. The diary was Mackenzie King's important safety valve in a world of high tensions and pressures."

                                                                              J. L. Granatstein, Canada's War

b. memoirs

"A writer is rarely so well inspired as when he talks about himself."

                                                                                                     Anatole France

"When you put down the good things you ought to have done, and leave out the bad ones you did do well, that's Memoirs."
                                                                                                           Will Roger

"To write one's memoirs is to speak ill of everybody except oneself."
                                                           Henri Philippe Petain, Observer, 26 May 1946

"The memories of men are too frail a thread to hang history from."
                                                                                                             John Still

"History will be kind on me for I propose to write it."
                                                    Winston Churchill

c. autobiographies

"An autobiography usually reveals nothing bad about its writer except his memory."

                                                                                                   Franklin P. Jones

"As one reads the book (Diefenbaker's autobiography) one becomes increasingly skeptical about the unrelieved self-congratulation on every page. Only once in 320 pages is there an admission of failure. . . The rest in an unbroken catalogue of flawless achievement. . . The author describes events. . . in 'Grit equals black, Tory equals white terms.'"
                                                                                  David Lewis, December 1976

"Autobiographies written after the lapse of years . . . are open to mistakes resulting from faulty recollection, limited opportunity to observe,  and ego serving misinterpretations."
                                                                                                       Oscar Handlin

"Whatever else it is, autobiography stems more often than not from a need to explain and justify the self.' Early American autobiography always involves three central questions. Why does the writer feel the need to justify his/her self? To whom is s/he writing? Why (if published) was the story of that self interesting enough to merit publication? . . . Autobiography is not really ‘about’ the facts and events related; it is about how the writer chooses to interpret and make sense of these events."
                                                                 William Andrews, To Tell A Free Story

d. letters

"A letter shows the man it is written to, as well as the man it is written by."

                                                                                                  Lord Chesterfield

e. newspapers

"The most important service rendered by the press and the magazines is that of educating people to approach printed matter with disgust."

                                                                                                      Samuel Butler

"The correspondents sent by Canadian newspapers [to the North West in 1885] . . . second-guessed commanders, repeated every rumour and embroidered the exploits of hometown heroes. If they wrote for opposition newspapers, they sought evidence of military blunders and administrative incompetence."
                                                                                                   Desmond Morton

"He had been kicked in the Head by a Mule when young and believed everything he read in the Sunday Papers."
                                                                                                          George Ade

"The press is the hired agent of a moneyed system, and set up for no other purpose than to tell lies where the interests are involved."
                                                                                             Henry Brooks Adams

"News is the first rough draft of history."
                                                                                                 Benjamin Bradlee

"Editors who work for us have the right to voice their opinions after they stop working for us."
                                                             David Radler, CBC Radio , 17 October 1976 

"Journalists have the power to reveal or conceal."
Winnipeg Museum of Human Rights, Holodonor film


f. books

"Textbooks can be used to spur the investigation of a key historical question or to provide context before an investigation . . . Treat the textbook as just another piece of historical evidence and move on."

                                                                                                       Bruce A. Lash

"Whose stories are we telling? What perspectives are included? Who or what voice is missing from the story."
                                                                                                       Sean Graham

g. advertising

"Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper."

                                                                                         Thomas Jefferson, 1819

h. biographies

"Men may fail to be heroes to their valets but they are more successful with their biographers."

                                                                                             John W. Defoe, 1922

"History will be kind to me as I intend to write it."
                                                                                         Winston Churchill, 1946

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a biographer not to be partisan."
                                                                                                        Hilda Neatby

i. statistics

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

                                                                                                 Benjamin Disraeli

"Look behind statistics! Find out how they're made up and on what definition they are based. Don't take them at face value."
                                                                                                        Ben Solomon

"Figures lie and liars figure."

"Statistics are like alienists – they will testify for either side."
                                                                                 Fiorello La Guardia, May 1933

"Statistics – I can prove anything by statistics – except the truth."
                                                                                                    George Canning

IV.  The Present – the Historian

"History is not just a study of facts, but it is the interaction between the historian himself and his facts."
                                                                                                         Peter Waite

"The point of view, the experiences, the beliefs, the attitudes of the historian must affect the search for evidence and the interpretation of that evidence."
                                                    Robert Jones Shafer, A Guide to Historical Method

"There can be no 'pure history' – history-in-itself, recorded from nobody's point of view, for nobody's sake. The most objective history conceivable is still a selection and an interpretation, necessarily governed by some special interests and based on some particular beliefs."
                                                                                Paul Philips, No Power Greater

"Study the historian before you begin to study the facts."
                                                                                                    Edward. H. Carr

"To be biased means to have a perspective, a frame of reference, a particular point of view. Everyone has a perspective, we see the world through our own eyes, heart and mind . . . Every perspective, then is biased in the sense that it represents one person's vision."
                                                                         David Kobrin, Beyond the Textbook

"History depends more on the historian than on documents. What is a document without an historian to discover and interpret it?"
                                                                            Abbé Lionel Groulx, speech, 1959

"Objectivity is something that historians are supposed to strive for – but rarely attain. Most historians wear blinders of one sort or another."
                                                                                                  C. P. Stacey

"Every historian has a point of view that determines which of the thousands of issues he or she will discuss, which of the millions of facts he or she will relate, and what things he or she will emphasize or ignore."
                                                                                                 Dr. Ed Whitcomb

"The instrument with which the historian looks at the past is modern. It was made, and shaped, and it operates, in the present. It is his own mind. And however much he bends his thoughts toward the past, his own way of thinking, his outlook, his opinions are the products of the time in which he lives. So that all written history . . .  is a compound of past and present."
                                                    C. V. Wedgwood, The Present in the Past, Listener

1. Background Knowledge

"Every man is the creature of the age in which he lives; very few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of the times."

"We are formed by the events of the past and how we remember them in the present, or what we can remember."
                                                                                       David A. Robertson

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

"If the Aborigine drafted an IQ test, all of Western civilization would presumably flunk it."
                                                                                                        Stanley Garn

"I acted on the information I have been accumulating since I was three years old."
                                                                                              Pierre Elliot Trudeau

"Part of where you are is where you've been."
                                                                                                  Margaret Atwood

"The present shapes our understanding of the past."
                             J. L. Granatstein and J. M. Hitsman

"How we understand history is largely contingent on the perspective and objective of the hand that records it.
                                                                                                   Michelle Good

2. Personal Values and Beliefs

"The childhood shows the man, As morning shows the day."
                                                                                                          John Milton

"Context matters. Context shapes us."
                                  Jack Granatstein

"The historian must ever endeavour to be conscious and critical of his own system of values, but he cannot escape from it or from the dominant ideas of his own age."
                                                         Frank H. Underhill, Canadian Forum, June 1932

"The historian has a heart, and no rules can prevent his emotions from influencing his work."
                                                                                                   Thomas Chapais

"You have a set of beliefs that you're acting on every day . . . You realize these beliefs in the way you live, and, if you're a history professor, in the books you write and the way you approach the past.. . . I was made by my family, my town and my country."                                                                                                         Michael Bliss

"Until the lion has his historian, the hunter will always be the hero."

3. Biases and Prejudices

"When you have found out the prevailing passion of any man, remember never to trust him where that passion is concerned."
                                                                                   Philip Stanhope Chesterfield

"Every man's work, whether it be literature or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself, and the more he tries to conceal himself, the more clearly will his character appear in spite of himself."
                                                                                                      Samuel Butler

"The first duty of an historian is to be on his guard against his own sympathies."
                                                                                                        J. A. Froude

"Prejudice is a great time saver. It enables one to form an opinion without getting the facts. That has its advantages, but they are not on the side of intelligence."
                                                                                     Herbert V. Prochnow, 1953

"Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices – just recognize them."
                                                                            Edward R. Murrow,  31 Dec. 1955

"No important history has yet appeared which does not reveal some bias, and . . . in the greatest of histories the element of partiality is strong."
                                                                                                Allan Nevins, 1962

"Show me a man who is completely objective and I'll arrange to have his tombstone made."
                                                                       Norman DePoe, Maclean's, May 1968

"I have yet to see a piece of writing . . . that does not have a slant. All writing slants the way a writer leans, and no man is born perpendicular."
                                                                                                          E. B. White

"While prejudice and bias are commonly considered synonymous terms they should be distinguished. A bias is a natural leaning towards one's own interests or group or hypothesis, and influences even those who desire to weigh all evidence fully and honestly. A prejudiced person, on the other hand, prejudges issues regardless of the evidence or before it is presented."
                                                                                            Homer Carey Hockett

"A fox should not be of the jury at a goose's trial."
                                                                                                      Thomas Fuller

"A liberal education. . .  frees a man from the prison-house of his class, race, time, place, background, family and even his nation."
                                                                                      Robert Maynard Hutchins

"The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose."
                 William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

a. Economic

"I won't quarrel with my bread and butter."

                                                                                                     Jonathan Swift

"Neither great poverty, nor great riches will hear reason."
                                                                                                      Henry Fielding

"I have never seen pessimism in a Company prospectus."
                                                                                                Sir William Connor

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."
                                                                                                      Upton Sinclair

"A married man with a family will do anything for money."
                                                       Charles de Talleyrand

b. political

"Hear one side and you will be in the dark; hear both sides, and all will be clear."

                                                                                  Thomas Chandler Haliburton

"I know that truth is one of the first victims of war."
                                                          J. S. Woodsworth, H of Cs, 9 September 1939

"In wartime a people only want to hear two things – good of themselves and evil of the enemy."
                                                                                              Dr. Samuel Johnson

c. religious

"A man's religion is the chief fact with regard to him"

                                                                                                    Thomas Carlyle

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
                                                                                              Bible, Proverbs 27:6

d. geographical

"It is natural for people and their nations to love their own history. They embellish it, exaggerate the importance of the successes and play down shameful action and failures."

                                                                                 Jean Pellerin, Cité libre, 1999

"Part of where you are is where you've been."
                                                                             Margaret Atwood, Survival, 1972

"Show me where you came from and I'll tell you what you are."
                                                                                               Saul Bellows, 1984

"The years of my childhood, spent at Summer Hill, developed my character, molded my tastes, and coloured my point of view for life."
                                                                                                  Elinor Glyn, 1986

e. racial or ethnic

"My nation was ignored in your history textbooks – they were little more important in the history of Canada than the buffalo that ranged the plains."

                                                                                Chief Dan George, 1 July 1867

"Why is it always that when the Indian people win a victory over the white man it is a massacre, yet when the white man kills Indian women and children, it is a victory."
                                                                                   The Indian Free Press, 1970

"A land may be said to be discovered the first time a European, preferably an Englishman, sets foot on it."
                                                                                           Vilhjalmur Stefansson

f. gender

"Few women are enrolled among the makers of Canada. Yet in all save the earliest years they have formed nearly half the population and have done almost half the work. But historians and businessmen tell us little of the part they have played. The woman's stage was set not in the limelight but in the firelight."

                                                                Isabel Skelton, The Backwoodsman, 1924

"Male and female are really two different cultures and their life experiences are utterly different."
                                                                                                         Kate Millett

"Its not only problematic to have history without women, it's highly inaccurate."
                                                           Veronica Strong-Boag, The Sun, 24 Oct. 1992

"Each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history, she learns she is worth less."
                                                                                  Myra and David Sadker, 1995

"The nation that fails to enlist the magnificent resources of its women is flying on one wing and bound for a crash landing."
                                                                                                 Charlotte Whitten

g. education

"I am part of all that I have met."

                                                                                    Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1842

"Tis education forms the common mind, Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclined."
                                                                                                    Alexander Pope

"A liberal education . . . frees a man from the prison-house of his class, race, time, place, background, family and even his nation."
                                                                                       Robert Maynard Hutchins

h. family and friends

"Blood is thicker than water."


"No fathers or mothers think their children ugly."
                                                                                  Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

"All that I am my mother made me."
                                                                                                John Quincy Adams

"He that has his father for judge goes safe to trial."
                                                                                 Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

i. personal

"Men are blind in their own cause."


"Nine times in ten the heart governs understanding."
                                                                                                   Lord Chesterfield

"Two men look out through the same bars: One sees the mud, and one the stars."
                                                                                              Frederick Langbridge

j. vocational

"Lawyers and painters can soon change white to black."

                                                                                                      Danish proverb

4. Interpretations of History

"The historian ought to work and to think with the benefit of his personality. If he tries to be 'neutral' . . . he sacrifices part of what it means to be human."
                                                                                   Abbé Lionel Groulx, Memoirs

"The 'facts' many not change, but often the importance accorded to them and the historians interpretation of them will."
                                                                              Ruth Pierson and Alison Prentice

"An age is a chaos while one is living it, and the past would be in chaos also if it were not interpreted for us."
                                                                                                   Van Wyck Brooks

"There is always peril in concentrating too intensely on one thread in human affairs when it is the whole cable of many strands that has to be accounted for."
                                                                                                      A. R. M. Lower

"Very few facts are able to tell their own story, without comments to bring about their meaning."
                                                                                     John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

"History is about the debate between competing interpretations of events, individuals and ideas based on the utilization of historical evidence."
                                                                                                        Bruce A. Lesh

"Historians carry their personal philosophies and values to their work and they affect the search for evidence and the interpretation of that evidence."
                                                     Robert Jones Shafer, A Guide to Historical Method

"Museum collections are subjective interpretations of cultural beliefs and values."
                                                                 Johanna K. Mizgala, Racism, Eh!, 2004

"A balance must be maintained between history as a body of facts, based solidly upon research, and history as an exercise in analysis, interpretation and generalization."
                                                                 Allan Nevins, The Gateway to History

"The first duty of the historian . . . is to establish what happened: the facts. After that . . . establishing why it happened and philosophizing about its importance is the cosmic scheme of things."                                                                           
                                                                            C. P. Stacey, A Date With History

"The past can be imagined and reconstructed into comprehensible patterns through the evidence left behind."
                                                                                                              Tim Cook

"Perspectives do not simply change; we recognize today that some perspectives were entirely left out of earlier histories."
Sara Carter, Ours By Every Law of Right and Justice Women and the Vote in the Prairie Provinces

V. The Historian Writes a History

"Finally, the third element in historical writing is presentation – the narration, description, and exposition required to set forth the results of research and interpretation."
                                                                                                          Allan Nevins

"The first quality of an historian is to be true and impartial; the next is to be interesting."
                                                                                                          David Hume

"What use is research in history if the researcher cannot make his results clear and interesting to the reader?"
                                                                             C. P. Stacey, A Date With History

"Most of us think history is the past. It's not. History is the stories we tell about the past."
                                                                     Thomas King, The Inconvenient Indian

"A good history is like a good map; it possesses plenty of detail, but the important features stand our in large type."
                                                                   Allan Nevins, The Gateway to History

"The third element in historical writing is presentation – the narration, description, and exposition required to set forth the results of reseach and interpretation."
                                                                   Allan Nevins, The Gateway to History

"There is no getting it 'right' in history. The past cannot be recaptured and represented 'as it was,' for the writing of history is always about drawing conclusions from insufficient evidence."
                                                                                                 Tim Cook

"The final steps are to write an account of the past in clear, accessible prose, and to point out to the reader, through footnotes and bibliography, the sources that formed the basis for the conclusions."
                                                                                                          Robin Fisher

"The more I read, the more I research,  the more reservations I have about ‘knowing’ history.
Seems the best that history can offer is ‘approximations’… better historians do a better job … and nothing in  history is ever ‘final’.
I have always told my incoming classes - if they were looking for the truth in history, I didn’t have it;  best I could do was to expose them to historical theories and practices … show them how historians operate … and let them decide, for themselves, how much credibility to ascribe to historical work."

                                                                                                         Fred Lepkin

"History is complicated and its interpretation changes over time. That is, our understanding of the past is deepened, enriched and yes, changed as new evidence it uncovered, new questions are asked, and a new generation of historians, with different backgrounds and life experiences, enters the historical profession. In other words, the past isn't deleted, but it is rewritten."
                                                                                                      Douglas Wright