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A Historian's Code by Richard W. Stewart

October 13, 2010

Tags: history, nonfiction, references

I reprint here with Richard Stewart's permission his delightful and helpful "Historian's Code."

1. I will footnote (or endnote) all my sources (none of this MLA or social science parenthetical business).

2. If I do not reference my sources accurately, I will surely perish in the fires of various real or metaphorical infernal regions and I will completely deserve it. I have been warned.

3. I will respect the hard-won historical gains of those historians in whose steps I walk and will share such knowledge as is mine with all other historians (as they doubtless will cheerfully share it with me).

4. I will not be ashamed to say "I do not know" or to change my narrative of historical events when new sources point to my errors.

5. I will never leave a fallen book behind.

6. I will acknowledge that history is created by people and not by impersonal cosmic forces or "isms." An "ism" by itself never harmed or helped anyone without human agency.

7. I am not a sociologist, political scientist, international relations-ist, or any other such "ist." I am a historian and deal in facts, not models.

8. I know I have a special responsibility to the truth and will seek, as fully as I can, to be thorough, objective, careful, andbalanced in my judgments, relying on primary source documents whenever possible.

9. Life may be short, but history is forever. I am a servant of forever.

A Historian's Code, by Richard W. Stewart, PhD, "Historians and a Historian's Code," ARMY HISTORY, No. 77 (Fall 2010), p. 46. Reprinted with author's permission. First discovered on the website Rantings of a Civil War Historian