Every historian has a viewpoint, shaped by his own background, values, and perception of the present. The relationship between background and viewpoint is not necessarily simple. As in the case of Supreme Court nominees, one cannot always predict in advance in what direction a historians background, modified by research and thought, will lead. At any rate, we properly measure a historian’s value, not by the degree to which he conforms to our own viewpoint, but rather by his observance of the canons of evidence and honest debate, and by his imaginative insight. Thus, to acknowledge that U.B. Phillips grew up in post-Civil War Georgia is a relevant datum in assessing his work as a historian of American slavery. However, it does not, as some seem to feel, constitute an all sufficient indictment of that work, any more than the fact that Kenneth M. Stampp grew up in the twentieth century in a German community in Wisconsin necessarily guarantees him superior objectivity and insight as a historian of slavery.
If history teaches anything at all, it is that there is more than one side to a question.
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