A few years ago, I came across a book with a curious title: The Truths of History:A Fair, Unbiased, Impartial, Unprejudiced, and Conscientious Study of History. The author tries to one-up Fox New’s “fair and balanced” motto, but of course, labelling yourself “fair” or your views “unbiased” does not make them so.
First of all, all views are biased. The whole point of having a view, or a perspective, is that it you come at it from a particular angle based on your experience and standpoint. An “unbiased” history is literally impossible, and not just in practice. Indeed, unbiased history is logically impossibly, like a four-side triangle. What I mean by this is that it is not the case that there is some perfectly moral person out there, who hold no previous experiences that would bias them in one direction or another. A blank mind is incapable of writing history because it cannot balance evidence.
To be fair, “bias” is often used to mean “undue bias” with the recognition that no one is free from perspective. But, again, this begs the question of what amount of bias is undue.
Some historians think they have some unique insight or understanding of the truth of history. These are the same people who confidently fill the online comment sections of newspapers with their proud declamations of right and wrong. Historians must stand for something, but they have to be willing to admit that they might be wrong.