My partner was speaking to a historian the other day who stated that in order to be a historian you had to be arrogant. The example he gave was, ‘you may have to tell someone with twenty years of experience in a subject that he is wrong.’
I found this unsettling for a moment. I have certainly been here and done that and lived with the uncertainty of a senior academic demanding that my paper be failed.
The difference I think is I don’t necessarily think what I am arguing against is wrong and I certainly don’t think what I am saying is right.
Its the best answer I can come up with at the moment, and it is in accurate reflection of what I believe. If I am making an error I want it out in the open and I want to identify it (I am seeking here to avoid the claim I know my own mind; I don’t) .
If I want to write or think, I am not particularly interested in where I can work something out with a high degree of certainty. When I can establish a fact its gone, dead and distinctly boring.
What’s far more interesting are the vast areas of history, I am uncertain of, know nothing about or can’t establish clearly how I am developing an idea.
These are the areas I will focus on.
This is the story I told myself to escape the label. Looking closer at myself and the historians I know I have to come to the conclusion that it is unwise to dismiss the original statement as entirely inaccurate.