There is no serious Historian that does not put a minimum of 20 years to have happened "after the fact" on any subject before it can be seen as "historical in nature." Why is that?

  • 5
    This is "begging the question". You began with an assumption, you must wait 20 years before a thing can be considered "historical", and then asked us to justify it. Instead, a better question would be about that assumption. "How much time (if any) should pass before a topic can be considered for historical discussion, and why?" Or "what are the pros and cons of discussing a topic in the moment vs 20 years later"?
    – Schwern
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 21:31
  • By definition picking a "time" is arbitrary of course. Knowing that most "historical reporting" (meaning reporting an incident or "event" for posterity) is exaggerated having a least one generation "pass" before the "skinny" of what in fact happened seems far from arbitrary. Indeed "this is the rule" no matter what you, I or anyone else thinks such that we can infer "objectivity." Of course many stories grow even larger "in the telling" so establishing anything as as "historical fact" may be impossible...or at a minimum is of course subjective in nature. For example "what is fact?" Commented May 18, 2016 at 21:42
  • You seem to have already decided on your answer. If you're looking for a debate, this is the wrong place. History.SE is for questions about history and historiography. Would you like to ask us a question?
    – Schwern
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 21:56
  • "What is a fact" is a question...and I did in fact literally state that in my rebuttal. Did you not even bother to read it? Oh, wait..."that's not a question either." In other words separating fact from fiction in even real time seems an extraordinary feat...let alone an "historical fact." You seem to be claiming an issue of "saliency" so I would be interested in how you or anyone else defines that. Of course you can state your opinions "and call it true... Commented May 18, 2016 at 22:06
  • 1
    It's a completely valid question. Usually an issue remains politically charged for a while before people can objectively analyze it. Things may have changed nowadays- people are much more willing to accept flaky theories, much sooner than 20 years after the event- but it's still a good idea to wait at the very least that long, and probably more like a lifetime, before trusting mainstream historical opinions on an issue.
    – D J Sims
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 3:12

1 Answer 1


I am of the opinion that your assertion is flawed.

Merriam-Webster simple definition of Historian: a person who studies or writes about history

Merriam-Webster simple definition of History: the study of past events. : events of the past. : past events that relate to a particular subject, place, organization, etc.

MacMillan Dictionary definition of Historian: someone who studies or writes about events in history

Oxford English Dictionary definition of Historian: An expert in or student of history, especially that of a particular period, geographical region, or social phenomenon

Oxford English Dictionary definition of History: The study of past events, particularly in human affairs: "medieval European history"

The Wikipedia Entry of Historian says:

A historian is a person who researches, studies, and writes about the past, and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is concerned with events preceding written history, the individual is a historian of prehistory. Although "historian" can be used to describe amateur and professional historians alike, it is reserved more recently for those who have acquired graduate degrees in the discipline. Some historians, though, are recognized by publications or training and experience. "Historian" became a professional occupation in the late nineteenth century as research universities were emerging in Germany and elsewhere.

No where in any of those definitions of Historian is the time-frame of History itself defined. Major events in world history, say World War II, will have many historians dissecting and writing. The first histories of that event were published in the early 1950's. Not even a decade after.

There are already scholarly papers written about, and a few books as well, the so-called Arab Spring. Most agree that primarily occurred in 2011. A mere blip in time.

The fact is that as soon as an event happens, anywhere, it is immediately in the past. Depending on the import of that event, historians may begin to dissect its effect on the larger world.

  • "Twenty Years." Head of the History Department, University of Virginia. Commented May 20, 2016 at 6:42
  • Dr. Balogh is definitely a professional historian, you might consider adding the source of your assertion to the body of the question
    – CGCampbell
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 12:43
  • That Professor did make me wonder at that time "can I be about History now?" I've spent my life dedicated to that proposition..."to be at the appointed place at the appointed time"(Napoleon.) He strikes me as someone who knew something about History. What was his Curriculum Vitae again? Commented May 20, 2016 at 12:48

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.