How do we conquer "history is written by die victors" ?

Oct 2014
44
Some place in history
Apologies if this has been covered before, but i'd like to know something.

History is written by die victors is something that we have all heard. The victors exaggerate their victories and their conquests. We cannot rely on that solely for the truth.

How we do conquer the exaggerations and the sometimes half truths or even flat out lies, to get the best possible and most accurate truth ?
 

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,205
Welsh Marches
A long time ago I started a thread about this starting from a somewhat different question:

"I have come across this all-too-familiar claim on two threads this evening. It seems to me to be patently untrue and never ceases to irritate me; history is surely written by both victors and losers, and some losers create victim narratives which are exceedingly effective. And the creation of mythology and one-sided narratives is by no means a speciality of victors alone.

So is this an example of an untruth that simply comes to be believed because it is so often repeated?"

'History is written by the victors'

The discussion there might be worth considering. Also this:
The loser's point of view
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
2,957
MD, USA
From what I've seen, these days history is usually written by the *losers*, or by winners (or descendants of the winners) who wish the winners had been the losers. The goal is always to make the winners out to be as evil as possible.

Or there are various revisionist attempts, either making some obscure ethnic group into the source of all progress and wisdom, or twisting and vastly over-hyping some minor find to make some ancient culture into something Just Like Us, which of course they weren't.

Sorry, I seem to be a little cynical today! But I seriously DO find that "history is written by the winners" to be used by anyone who hates the winners and wants to rewrite the story to the advantage of the losers.

Matthew
 
Dec 2014
441
Wales
I’ve thought it’s perhaps more of a case of history is read by the victors,
Or perhaps it's more accurate to say history is remembered by the victors. Most nations have both won and lost wars, but for some reason we always like to dwell on our victories rather than our humiliations or sins. This article gives a good idea of what I mean -

HOW JAPAN TEACHES ITS OWN HISTORY

Not surprisingly most histories about WW2 are written by authors from the Allied nations - why would anyone whose nation had been crushed or committed terrible crimes choose to remember such events.
 

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,171
US
From what I've seen, these days history is usually written by the *losers*, or by winners (or descendants of the winners) who wish the winners had been the losers. The goal is always to make the winners out to be as evil as possible.

Or there are various revisionist attempts, either making some obscure ethnic group into the source of all progress and wisdom, or twisting and vastly over-hyping some minor find to make some ancient culture into something Just Like Us, which of course they weren't.

Sorry, I seem to be a little cynical today! But I seriously DO find that "history is written by the winners" to be used by anyone who hates the winners and wants to rewrite the story to the advantage of the losers.

Matthew
There are very few neutral people in the world. The ones who are usually don't care much about matters such as positing an account, or more precisely - a view, of matters that have occurred. How do you rewrite history if you are the loser? Put yourself in positions that are story makers and the storytellers of a society. Then keep telling your version enough while demeaning the other side (just as they supposedly did to you; so much for fairness and justice) until the masses, most of whom receive tidbits or snippets of information from sources such as the aforementioned, believe your version.
 
Oct 2018
5
Canada
The claim that history is written by the victors is a convenient way to dismiss history as useless, incorrect, or inapplicable. History, as an academic discipline, is written by historians. Consider Thucydides as an example. The historian responsible for recording the Peloponnesian War is writing from the losing side. There is no doubt as to the potential biases of certain scholars, but this is exactly why historiography developed as a field of inquiry into the methods of writing history. This myth also suggests that subjugated and conquered peoples cannot write their own history. This is categorically untrue.
 
Oct 2014
44
Some place in history
“History is a set of lies agreed upon.” - Napoleon Bonaparte

Even more relevant, and history must be fully scrutinized.
 
  • Like
Reactions: dukeofjive

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,205
Welsh Marches
A certain kind of history is a set of lies (or more probably, misrepresentations and half-truths) agreed upon, but not all history; that mainly applies to history that is written in a one-sidedly nationalistic, factional or idelogical perspective. Many historians are capable of writing history in a reasonably unbiased manner, and many indeed study areas of history that are not likely to be marked by any biases of their own.
 

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,171
US
A certain kind of history is a set of lies (or more probably, misrepresentations and half-truths) agreed upon, but not all history; that mainly applies to history that is written in a one-sidedly nationalistic, factional or idelogical perspective. Many historians are capable of writing history in a reasonably unbiased manner, and many indeed study areas of history that are not likely to be marked by any biases of their own.
Unfortunately, for most of history the "historian" was in the employ of some ruler. So, the historian was used as a propaganda tool of sorts. Even noble monks and priests from the Church had an agenda in the reporting, namely to glorify the Church (like Adam of Bremen). I wonder when the first university historians arose? Maybe the Renaissance? If not, perhaps in the last few centuries?
 
Last edited: