Anglo-Saxon bias in historiography ?

Nov 2010
1,269
Bordeaux
#1
Considering that a large amount of what global historiography has to offer isn't translated into English, would you consider that, overall, global historiography has an "anglo-saxon" bias, and if yes to what extent ?

Following my first question:
How much are you interested in knowing about the part of historiography which isn't available to you because you do not speak foreign languages?
Does it bother you to "miss" so many contributions to historical research ?
To what extent do you think it is detrimental to your understanding of historical facts ?
 
Aug 2010
16,071
Welsh Marches
#2
A most interesting question, to which I couldn't give a sensible answer offhand, but it is worth remarking that serious English-writing historians who write about the history of non-English-speaking parts of the world will usually have a knowledge of the relevant language(s), and of historical works written in it; so the secondary literature in other languages will leave its mark on works written in English, even if many English-speaking readers don't read them directly. And this applies more generally, it is unusual for serious scholars to be wholly monoglt; in my own field of Classics, most English-speaking scholars will be able to read French, German, and Italian at least. A second point is that English now serves as an international language of exchange, and that many historians who do not belong to the 'Anglo-Saxon' world publish works in it, and furthermore, a very wide range of works by historians who write in other languages are translated into it. So any biassing of the kind that you are suggesting may be mitigated to some significant extent by these factors. Furthermore Anglo-Saxon attitudes are themselves very varied, so people who read just in English won't be biased in just a single way!
 

clement

Ad Honorem
Jun 2011
2,141
California, USA
#3
I think that what I would call "popular " historiography (that which is learned in schools) has a strong anglo-saxon bias in may countries. Because much of what have been written on history is the product of english historians. And though now, anglo-saxon historians are more objective, it takes some time for popular historiography to catch up with those new publications.

An example in sociology : Max Weber is considered a master sociologist and one of the founder of the discipline. Hence his theses (most notably on the effect of religion on economic development) are considered to be part of an educated guy's culture. Modern sociologists tend to considerably moderate his thesis on protestantism for example, but their works are only known by specialists, not by most people.

It is the same with history : the history we learn in secondary education is in fact quite conservative and not based on the works of the most recent historians. OF course, at university, it is completely different, I know that you study different historiographies and perspective (myself I'm not a student in history but I know some things on it), but most people do not take history classes after having completed high school.
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,946
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#4
It's a particular matter ...

I would generalize a bit leaving Anglo-Saxon world. How do we imagine Italian historiography? Or the French one? Or the German one?

From my perspective I do note [having the possibility to compare historiography of different countries thanks to the net] that the main "accusations" of being "bias" come from Asia, overall from India.

Indian historiography tends to "debunk" the myth of the "better Western culture" [culture, not society, economy ... culture].

If we remain in our Western environment, until the level of secondary school, history is centered on the "national" context.

Italian students in High Schools know a very little about England, a part the attempts of invasion by Spain and France. It seems that the British Empire appears on history in occasion of WW I ... to disappear until WW II begins.

Not to mention the United States:

they had created in late 18th century. George Washington was the first President.
They did something in WW I [but no Italian student of High School will tell you what]
They destroyed the Nazis
They used the atom bomb against the Japs


This is all what an Italian High School student will tell you about US before of 1950 .... then .... NATO and Cold War [but don't ask for details, please ...].

On the other hand, French and German 19th century are studied and quite known. So I could say we've got a "Continental European" vision of recent history.
 
Aug 2010
10,445
Wales
#7
The slant relevant to whatever language you are reading or practising history in. As Lins says, if you have another language then you can attempt to balance it more.

Also it depends on the research. Particular places, region, countries etc specialise or lead research in particular areas, and as such set the grain for the bias in that subject. Thats not neccessarily going to be the anglophone world.
 
Feb 2010
629
Cambridgeshire, UK
#8
Not now, I just write and make translations.
Sounds nice :)

As for an Anglo-Saxon bias in historiography I wouldn't say so. Most scholars as previously mentioned are at least fluent in the language of their direct topic of study and usually those languages surrounding it, either to read the work of other historians or other primary sources. I'd be interested to see what proportion of published work is from the US and UK though, compared to other European or Asian nations etc. though, to see if people from these socio-cultural backgrounds have a domination over scholarship, rather than English-speakers themselves (a good amount of academic work is translated into English or written in it in the first place, so this wouldn't really show this).
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
33,188
T'Republic of Yorkshire
#9
Considering that a large amount of what global historiography has to offer isn't translated into English, would you consider that, overall, global historiography has an "anglo-saxon" bias, and if yes to what extent ?

Following my first question:
How much are you interested in knowing about the part of historiography which isn't available to you because you do not speak foreign languages?
Does it bother you to "miss" so many contributions to historical research ?
To what extent do you think it is detrimental to your understanding of historical facts ?
It's not too relevent to the area of history that I'm interested in (Japanese history), but it bothers me enormously that I'm missing a great deal of material that is only available in Japanese. My reading is far too weak to be able to make sense of Japanese historical textbooks so I rely on English-language authors.

It's extremely detrimental. While I was in Japan, I learnt a number of additional things simply by visiting museums, where, even with the limited amount of information available in English, there was stuff there that simply wasn't available in translated textbooks.

One particular historical text, whose name escapes me now, was translated into English but the authors decided to omit the entire biography section because they thought readers wouldn't be interested - that's the part I would have been most interested in!

Also, with the limited number of authors available in English, books tend to reflect the biases, and strengths and weaknesses of those authors.
 

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