History is written by the victor

Discuss historical events and information concerning any culture, time, or location in our world (or even the frontier beyond).

Re: History is written by the victor

Unread postby ROTKobsessed » Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:00 am

Sun Fin wrote:They might be remembered but are they remembered favourably? Boudicca probably more so now but for centuries she was thought of as a Barbarian queen and Napoleon may be thought of as a great general but he is also painted as evil despite the fact that many of the ideals his Empire were founding on (meritocracy for example) are now considered mainstream.


I guess Boudicca did gain more respect when she was seen as an influence for Elizabeth I. Napolean is still highly praised though, it'd hard to see past his incredible ability.
Basically, what I was trying to say, but didn't do it so well, is with modern historians, favourable texts seem to be discredited and thus it ends up being that the loser is portrayed fairly well. An example could also be the battle of the Spurs (1513/1514); Henry VIII captured 2 French towns and has the prestige of Holy Roman Emperor, Maximillian, fighting under his banner, but recently it's been depicted as rather just a skirmish with no large gain - which is fair.
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Re: History is written by the victor

Unread postby Sun Fin » Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:11 am

If what you’re getting at is that things have now changed and modern historians are more impartial and more professional in the way they treat history then I agree with you to a certain extent.

But even though that is more the case now history still has its hero’s and it overlooks their faults. You only have to look at Churchill’s career to realise that if not for WW2 he would have been remembered incredibly negatively by history!

This article for example:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/po ... 18317.html

Yet Churchill won and so history will remember him as a great man that saved the world from Nazism.
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Re: History is written by the victor

Unread postby ROTKobsessed » Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:27 am

Sun Fin wrote:If what you’re getting at is that things have now changed and modern historians are more impartial and more professional in the way they treat history then I agree with you to a certain extent.

But even though that is more the case now history still has its hero’s and it overlooks their faults. You only have to look at Churchill’s career to realise that if not for WW2 he would have been remembered incredibly negatively by history!

This article for example:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/po ... 18317.html

Yet Churchill won and so history will remember him as a great man that saved the world from Nazism.


I think 20th century is definitely very novel-like in terms of heroes and villains: possibly because of ALL the propaganda, there was so much floating around. I guess it's also helped by the fact Hitler, Stalin et al did not help themselves at all; Stalin killed between 40-60m people, and Hitler's holocaust...
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Re: History is written by the victor

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Tue Oct 22, 2013 3:26 pm

ROTKobsessed wrote:I think 20th century is definitely very novel-like in terms of heroes and villains: possibly because of ALL the propaganda, there was so much floating around. I guess it's also helped by the fact Hitler, Stalin et al did not help themselves at all; Stalin killed between 40-60m people, and Hitler's holocaust...


Well, the late great Eric Hobsbawm did call it the age of extremes for a reason. Ideology was the thing of the day. Extreme nationalism, Soviet communism, American capitalism - all equally convinced that their way is the only right way, and all equally given to using any means necessary up to mass murder in order to do it. And all equally guilty of eliding facts to suit their narratives. For example, we never really hear about the mass deaths of Russians in the late '90's under Eltsin and the capitalist shock therapists - 1.5 million 'excess deaths' in the first four years alone, thanks to their policies - and those who bring it up are usually dismissed as crackpots.

I think many contemporary historians are more balanced and careful, on the whole, than their predecessors, but I think we have to be wary that perhaps they have just gotten better at covering their tracks and making apologetics for the victors.
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Re: History is written by the victor

Unread postby bodidley » Fri May 16, 2014 6:11 am

The saying history is written by the victor is taken too literally. History is written by survivors of course, but if you look at the Hundred Years' War as an example, even though England was catastrophically defeated, judging by English language sources you would think that England won. The Spanish Civil War is another example where the defeated side, being later resurgent in politics and academia, was able to take control of the narrative.
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Re: History is written by the victor

Unread postby Iain » Sat Jun 04, 2016 5:20 am

Yep history is often written (and in some cases re-written) by the victors, if Germany defeated the U.K. in WW2 later brit generations would be learning about how good old Uncle Adolf liberated us from that terrible warmonger Churchill, we'd probably be learning it in German too. ^^
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Re: History is written by the victor

Unread postby SunXia » Sun Jun 05, 2016 12:36 am

Hmmm not always the case, as someone who lives in NI I have lived a "Britain is evil" existence.
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Re: History is written by the victor

Unread postby Kayzr » Wed Jun 22, 2016 5:56 pm

True to a large extent I'd reckon.

The atrocities of the Allied nations in World War 2 (fire-bombing cities in Japan and Germany with, mass rape of German women by Soviet soldiers at the end of the war, etc.) go totally unmentioned in the history books and yet people are still lectured by the evils of Nazi Germany and, to a lesser extent, the Japanese Empire to this very day.
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Re: History is written by the victor

Unread postby Antiochus » Fri Mar 31, 2017 6:25 pm

It tends to be true.

However, I would argue that certain conflicts are mostly remembered by the defeated side. The American Civil War's historiography has been much more influenced by southern historians. One should also mention the "Lost Cause" writers and historians, which basically defined much of the ideas many still hold regarding that conflict.
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Re: History is written by the victor

Unread postby SunXia » Sat Apr 01, 2017 5:29 pm

In the age of illiteracy yeah history tended to be written by the victor because they created massive monuments and cults of personalities at times in order to solidify their victories. More often, stories spread by word of mouth and such, thus the history would get mixed with the actual history and truths would be blown up into hero worship.

However, as time passed, literacy percentages increased and technology developed. The Printing Press meant that revisionism spread and the ideas that were not always supported by the Monarch and leaders spread. People other than those working for the government were able to leave behind written accounts of things that wouldn't have been present in the earlier ages. We also were able to scientifically study bones and remains of things to account for proper truths in compared to "alternative facts" presented by people with an agenda, like when deaths were attributed to poison rather than natural causes.

This is one of the reasons that extremists in certain parts of the world try to stop groups from getting education, like women and such. Knowledge is power.
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