Historical Truth: Does It Exist?


It has been debated for many years whether or not there is such a thing as historical truth. Reading Chris Skidmore’s Death and the Virgin about the death of Amy Robsart got me thinking about this, so I conducted some research, and here is my opinion on the matter of historical truth.

Death And The Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart (2011)
Death And The Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart (2011)

“For the historian, the truth is neither impossible nor improbable; it can only be, quite simply, whatever remains.” (Chris Skidmore, Death and the Virgin)[i]

The full truth doesn’t exist because evidence is missing and there is often a distinct lack of testimony, particularly in the earlier periods. We can’t be sure of exactly what happened in, for example, the death of Amy Robsart or the fall of Anne Boleyn, without talking directly to the people involved. Historians have to base what we see as truth on whatever sources survive. I think it is impossible to get to the ‘historical truth’ because of the lack of sources. No matter what you believe you can never be 100% sure. The only things sure are dates. For example, the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066 and Elizabeth I died in 1603. Everything that really matters – the thoughts, feelings and motives – are subjective. Skidmore’s perception of historical truth isn’t truth per ce, but is actually a compromise based on what is left. Continue reading “Historical Truth: Does It Exist?”

Advertisements