Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Winners and losers in history

I remember a long time ago having a conversation on a message board about how "history is written by the winners." This statement was brought up in an attempt to undermine history, which I thought was a mistake because it assumed that losers can write accurate history, but winners can't.

I was thinking about that this morning when it occurred to me that one needs to adopt the opposite point of view in order to warn people not to be "on the wrong side of history." This warning about not being on the wrong side of history assumes that winners are always in the moral right, and losers are in the moral wrong.

Why think either of these things? Why be suspicious of history just because it was written by winners? And why be suspicious of a moral point of view just because it's held by losers?

I don't think anybody should worry about being on the wrong side of history. To worry about such a thing is to presuppose that morality is grounded in the whims of cultural fads. But if you think morality is an objective thing, and especially if you think it's grounded in God, then it shouldn't concern you in the least whether you might some day be on the wrong side of history.

It isn't even true that winners always write history. History is written by people who look at multiple sources--some by the winners and some by the losers. Almost all of the information we have about the first Jewish revolt against Rome comes from the losers, for example.


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