How can we identify historians from a country who are (willing to be) independent of the interests of the government of it? Whether or not a historian is really able to see and hear about their own national or country or regional history; to understand and evaluate has happened in the past and compare the history to the present circumstances or conflicts. It seems that in some countries, some historians are fully biased one way or the other (with a hidden agenda), or maybe that there is something wrong with a historical writer from first region until now.

I would appreciate any advice about how to check the history from the hidden historian's country. You can search a small country in South East Asia.

  • 1
    OP, I'm attempting to parse out your question, but wow, it's a challenge. See if you agree with my first try.
    – CGCampbell
    Mar 2, 2015 at 17:17
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    @MarkC.Wallace - I'm guessing he meant "seer", transformed from a noun into a verb. I changed the word to "picture", based on that assumption. Pituokhmer, if I'm wrong, please fix it.
    – T.E.D.
    Mar 2, 2015 at 20:10
  • I wonder if country is relevant. I think the question is "How do we evaluate the integrity/bias of a historian?" Does it really matter if we're talking about official bias, Marxist bias or anti-semitic bias. The real issue is how to I obtain assurance that the facts presented are not biased?
    – MCW
    Mar 2, 2015 at 20:12
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    A historian can be biased and have a hidden (or not hidden) agenda independently of the country and the government. The way to detect this is to look into his/her arguments/proofs, compare with other sources etc.
    – Alex
    Mar 2, 2015 at 22:40
  • Thanks @T.E.D. for your corrected my words, that's not hundred percent of what mean, but it's OK. What is meant is e.g. China is big and powerful country and they had fully historical also has many movies are taken and share in public, but my country did not (you can Google "Khmer Empire" will see the biggest region of my country) but don't have any specific documents new generation after that region to proof those things same as China
    – pitoukhmer
    Mar 3, 2015 at 1:49

1 Answer 1


Caveat: I'm not a trained Historian, just someone who's read a lot of history books over the years, and has learned this the hard way.

First off, every writer has bias. Know that going in.

So if you want to find your writer's bias, you have to learn a bit about them. Where did they grow up and go to school? Are they from an ethnic minority in their country, or from the dominant group? Did they grow up benefiting from the power structure, or oppressed by it? Are they active politically (and thus liable to be pushing an agenda for their own benefit)?

Next you have to learn a bit about the country (major chicken-and-egg problem here!). If you know a bit about what's going on politically in a country, you know what people there want to believe, and what is uncomfortable for them.

Armed with all this, there's one good rule of thumb: there's roughly an inverse relationship between how uncomfortable information is for the writer and his presumed audience, and how much you can trust it. I'm not saying you can't trust any positive statements a person makes about their own culture. But if its exclusively positive, and/or exclusively negative about some culture that isn't their own, your mental shields should go up.

To take an extreme example from perhaps your own history: I'm not an expert on SE Asian history. But if I see a Khmer writer (particularly an avowed Communist or Socialist) who insists the Killing Fields have been way overblown, I'm going to be more than a little bit skeptical. Its likely to be both in his own interests, and something he'd personally prefer to have been true (regardless of the facts).

On the other hand, if the same thing is said by an expatriate historian of ethnic Chinese Cambodian or devout Cambodian Buddhist descent, and his work isn't chiefly known due to promotion from folks in the group in my previous paragraph, I'd be a bit less guarded.

(Pro tip: this works for yourself too. Be extra careful about stuff you want to believe)

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