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

Jun 2017
2,555
Connecticut
#11
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 ?
Ironically the people's biased account from whom the most of our understanding of the classical and ancient world comes from were losers(Athens in the Peloponesian War).
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
#12
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 ?

That phrase "history is written by the Victor's".is true if the other side is completely destroyed, which is often not the case. If the other side is completely conquered, as is the case of Carthage, then yes history is written by the Victor's because the other side was completely dominated. Carthage was not around to tell its side of the story. Likewise, with the complete conquest of the Persians by the Arabs, only the Arab side of the story gets told, since any story that did not sing the praises of the Muslim conquest would t have been allowed to be told

But if the other side is not completely dominated but merely defeated, they are still around to tell their side of the story.

In the cases were the victors completely dominated the other side so theie opponents are no longer around to tell their side, it can be difficult sometimes to recover what actually happened. Still, through archeology, etc., It might be done.
 
Aug 2010
15,226
Welsh Marches
#13
I think quote a lot of historians were independent authors even quite early, but that developments in the 18th Century were crucial, with the development of proper source criticism; it was the Germans in the 19th Century who took the lead in developing history as a university discipline, but many of the best and most widely read historians (especially in narrative history) have not been academics, and I hoe that will continue to be the case.
 
Sep 2012
8,843
India
#14
Winners at times distort history and keep repeating the distortions even though they might have, by then, become losers! For example, the British historians used to cite the 1857 war between the army of British East India Company and the armies of various small kingdoms including the worn out Moghul Empire and, of course, the civilians armed with whatever arms and the mutinied soldiers, under a hold-all title of the Indian Sepoy Mutiny! The Indians rightfully call it the First War of Independence, but the British still refuse to see the event that way.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,603
Blachernai
#17
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?
The professional study of history as we know it today largely originated in the mid-19th c. on continental Europe.

But really, one of the major reasons why history is written by one side or another is linguistic. Languages are hard, and training opportunities in anything other than a handful of major ones are rarely easily available.
 
Apr 2018
21
Canada
#18
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.
 
Jul 2018
477
Hong Kong
#19
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 ?
Read multiple of historians' or recorders' works, try to get pictures from various perspectives.

For example, suppose you're studying the First Crusade, you should at least think and analyze from the perspective of the Crusader lords, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Seljuk Turks, the Pope, the poor people & penniless knight, the hermit, examing in-depth about their purpose, ideologies, interaction and conflicts rather than having a rash conclusion from a narrow angle, for weaving the wide scope of picture on the entire event.

The idiom said, the demons hide in details, you can't possess the substantial part of truth without studying abundant of information.
The "breadth" and "height" decide your quality as a history-learner.
 

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,366
US
#20
The professional study of history as we know it today largely originated in the mid-19th c. on continental Europe.

But really, one of the major reasons why history is written by one side or another is linguistic. Languages are hard, and training opportunities in anything other than a handful of major ones are rarely easily available.
Thanks. And another issue, even into the early Middle Ages was that some peoples did not have a written language or bother to officially record their deeds. The Slavs, for example, have no written account of their interactions with the Saxons, Franks, Bohemians, Byzantines and Danes in the the 8th -10th centuries or later to my knowledge.