Should We Trust the State?
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Jonathan Dresner - 8/2/2004
Professional history descends from the work of Ranke, who took government documents as a 'gold standard' of transparency. We know that's not true anymore, but they still, generally, hold up ok. At least they used to.
Before we dismiss a text as biased, generally we need to have: some evidence that there is an error or distortion; some sense of why the bias exists; a belief, rooted in other sources, that the bias/distortion/error is sufficiently great that it obviates the use of that source as evidence of anything except bias.
As Richman points out, bipartisanship mitigates against the likelihood of directly blaming any party figures, but that leaves a great deal of information in the report that is sound, sourced, and critical of governmental systems and functionaries.
That said, the disjunction between the information gathered by the government and the information released by the government has never, in my opinion, been greater than it is now.
- Columbia University professors Eric Foner, Alan Brinkley, and Alice Kessler-Harris to retire
- A powerhouse appropriations subcommittee is now headed by a historian: Republican Rep. Tom Cole (OK)
- Slavic scholars divided over a scholarship sponsored (and withdrawn) by Stephen F. Cohen
- Claire Strom to Step Down as Editor of Agricultural History