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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Robert E Stewart <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 8 Nov 2014 18:09:29 -0500
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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Awhile back, Guy Rocha, retired Nevada State Archivist, and I were  
discussing the definition of "Historian" and historical writing. Guy told me  there 
is no definition of Historian in American law or in known judicial  
decisions, but that there is an important one from a British judge on the  Queen's 
Bench, part of the High Court. 
Since many of the Forum members are probably already familiar  with Irving 
v. Penguin Books Ltd., in which the last appeal was denied in  December, 
2000, I am sure that for them I am late to this  party. In the suit, David 
Irving said the Penguin book written by Deborah  Lipstadt had defamed his 
reputation as a historian. The court found otherwise.  The case is easily Googled, 
and the Wickipedia entry is interesting.
The lawsuit dealt with a Holocaust denier against a Lipstadt's book,  which 
countered the denier personally and harshly. The Queen's Bench decision  
runs 333 pages. It has since been digested by Yale Law Journal writer  Wendie 
E. Schneider into seven points which the judge wrote must all be met to  be 
considered an Objective Historian. I found the  condensed points interesting 
and feel they are worth sharing with  those Forum members who may not be 
aware of the case.
Since I enjoy working with primary documents, and believe  secondary 
sources (which by definition include my own writing) should be  carefully 
considered, I find the seven points to be good guidelines. 

1. The historian must treat sources with appropriate  reservations. 
2. The historian must not dismiss counterevidence without scholarly  
3. The historian must be even-handed in treatment of evidence  and eschew 
"cherry picking";
4. The historian must clearly indicate any speculation;
5. The historian must not mistranslate documents or mislead by omitting  
parts of documents;
6. The historian must weigh the authenticity of all accounts, not merely  
those that contradict a favored view;
7. The historian must take the motives of historical actors into  
Robert E Stewart
"Historical researcher"
Carson City Nevada