The Bias Within History

In the face of great change in this generation, many of us are beginning to question information of the past. “History repeats itself” is an infamous saying that spans across all horizons, but remains true at every core.

Just as the Enlightenment during the Scientific Revolution was centered around fact-checking and deriving the legitimacy of what has been previously believed and accepted, we are facing our own “Enlightenment,” whether it be in scientific research, philosophy or current events based on what we have grown up learning about the world’s past. It is important to adhere discretion in any knowledge that is descended upon on. There is a class of divide among historians, where we grow to realize that all of history is relative.

Depending on historians’ ages and focus of time period, what they associate with as rightful and/or poor leadership is inherently from a relative point of view. For example, we can look at the Ottoman Empire in the years just after the Renaissance and determine that it was extremely fair and accepting of the vast amount of residents living in its area. However, looking back at it now, we realize the extension of its fairness should be cut short.

The Ottoman rulers were tolerant of many religions, yet force conversion among many young children and anticipated taxes from those who would not practice their dominant faith. However, historians will relay the Ottoman Empire as tolerant and accepting in comparison to other states at the time. Their view of demagoguery might not be what we think of it as today in this era. It becomes evident that blatant displays of violence or inequality might be put on the back burner in order to serve a bigger picture of “fairness” or “correct politics” to the area of interest. This brings up a debate then — should we start begin revising the way historical information is interpreted and force the next generation to view history differently? 

For one, it is important to understand that we may feel that we should revise the textbooks so the next generation knows there were many faults in leadership and ruling throughout the years. Unfortunately, this reinforces a tireless cycle of us revising history based on the “now.” Who is to say that in the next 100 years, we will be seen as merciless and tyrannical in our leaders and policies? If so, history would rewrite itself in a cycle of progressive years. Instead, we must understand the implications. We must learn how to take everything at face value and relate it to the present.

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