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E. H. Carr in 1961 delivered a series of six lectures at Cambridge University examining the question “What is history?” the title by which it was later published. He argues that historians are susceptible to bias since every person is born into a society and invariably they are moulded by it through its environment and language as such their interpretation of history will be subjective to meet the criteria of their own culture. Consequently, it is argued history is perceived through the environment in which the historian lives. Whilst, it is acceptable that the historian will be, to an extent affected by their environment, it does not necessitate that their interpretation will necessarily be biased. An interpretation could change with new evidence.
Carr claims that it must accepted that it must be assumed that no historic truth can be attained, a. However, this assumption is heavily disputed as it is evident some events are undeniable. Carr’s claim that all historical facts are susceptible to the historian’s bias puts him in direct conflict with those who believe History to be a scientific process.Carr declares that history constitutes of the historian and the facts. He asserts that facts only become historical facts when they are selected by the historian. Consequently, Carr concludes that history in effect is determined by historian and as such it is the reflection of the historian’s time and environment.
Carr’s ‘What is history?’ provides an outlook on history which is vastly different from his predecessors. The key concept he proposes is that history is relative to the interpretation and selection of historians who in turn are the products of their environment. Consequently, the main thesis of Carr is that history is subjective not objective. This was revolutionary when it was first published, but it is now the mainstream approach to understanding the nature of history.