His­tory can’t be neu­tral

BBC History Magazine - - Letters -

Writ­ing about the First World War ( Was it Worth it?, Novem­ber), Richard J Evans says the his­to­rian’s job is only to “ex­plain how and why”, and not to make value judg­ments.

I dis­agree. His­tory must eval­u­ate if it is to ful­fil its main pur­pose: in­form­ing the present. More­over, though ob­jec­tiv­ity might be adopted as a pose, it is hu­manly im­pos­si­ble when dis­cussing any­thing of real im­por­tance.

As EH Carr said, ev­ery worth­while his­to­rian has a bee in his or her bon­net, and the use of lan­guage for­bids neu­tral­ity. Pro­fes­sor Evans il­lus­trates this point very well by his im­pas­sioned con­dem­na­tion of the fight­ing of the First World War.

Paul Cun­ning­ham, South Korea

We re­ward the Let­ter of the Month writer with one of our Books of the Year, The In­dian Em­pire at War by Ge­orge Mor­ton-Jack. Read more on page 68.

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