Scientific Standards and Ideological Preferences

Scientific Standards and Ideological Preferences in Historical Writing: Their Relationship and Conflict

Monika Baár

As a participant of the Knowledge and Belief project, this research focused on the problems of source, evidence, proof, and belief in modern historiography. Monika Baár's special interest resides in the nineteenth century, a paradoxical period when the professionalisation of historical studies went hand in hand with its exploitation for nationalist purposes.

It was in this era that, in preference to the educational and entertaining function of history, factual accuracy and methodological rationality gained increasing significance. Legends and myths, which had previously constituted part of the narrative, were no longer seen to provide reliable evidence. This new attitude required the historian to acquire training in auxiliary sciences, which offered skills in critical analysis and interpretation of sources. At the same time, scientific argumentation became more and more influenced by political-ideological ambitions, and many historians were themselves involved in the national movements. As a corollary, history was exploited to justify and legitimize political claims.

In this framework, Monika Baár's principal concern was related to the ways in which the historian’s pre-existing ideological and personal preferences (which invariably influence and often pre-determine the outcome of research) may be contextualized. In particular, Baár focused on the question as to what extent, if at all, those two conflicting values—scholarly and ideological—may be rendered compatible.

Treatments included the understanding of the relation between the historian as scholar and ideologist as one between knowledge and belief. The connection between the two components was interpreted as a relation between objectivity (adherence to scholarly standards) and subjectivity (personal-emotional involvement).

  • The Historian and the Nation in the 19th Century: the Case of East Central Europe (Oxford Historical Monographs series )
  • ‘The Intellectual Horizons of Liberal Nationalism in Hungary: The Case of Mihály Horváth (1809-1878)’, in: B. Trencsényi et alii (eds.) :Nation-Building and Contested Identities. Romanian & Hungarian Case Studies. 2001.