Humor? A Historian’s Code

An amusing post arrived via the H-Public list this morning.[1] National Museum of the U.S. Army historian Glenn F. Williams forwarded “A Historian’s Code,” published in the Fall 2010 issue of Army History:

A Historian’s Code (1)

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, and balanced 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.

(1)     Stewart, Richard, Ph.D., “Historians and a Historian’s Code,”

ARMY HISTORY, No. 77 (Fall 2010), p. 46.


[1] Glenn F. Williams, “COMMENT: The Historian’s Code,” H-Public, October 7, 2010, http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=H-Public&month=1010&week=a&msg=lDCXWVHoLi/tD95B/gA8PA&user=&pw=.

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