Can We Judge Historical Figures by Contemporary Standards?

Video from Study of Antiquity and the Middle Ages

"In this episode Spencer McDaniel from the Tales of Times Forgotten blog comes on to discuss whether or not we can judge historical figures by contemporary standards? There has been a lot of political controversy in recent years about the question of whether it is appropriate to judge historical figures by “contemporary standards.” This controversy often particularly flares up surrounding figures who are traditionally seen as “heroes” of United States history and yet actually committed horrific crimes, such Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. I think that the issue is a lot more complicated than most people realize and I think that, in most cases, it is extremely misleading to frame the debate in terms of judging historical figures by “contemporary standards” because this implies that people during the period in question had no way of knowing that the things they were doing were wrong, when, in fact, we know there were people at the time who did know that these things were wrong. Taken from the original article Should We Judge Historical Figures by Contemporary Standards? We go on to discuss ancient figures such as Aristotle and his views on slavery, Augustus Caesar and his normal expression of cruelty and murder and so very much more. Can we claim they were just acting according to the "standards" of the time? Is that accurate if there were people who criticized them during their own time? Do we confuse history with memorialization? Should we revere historical figures who engaged in genocide and or slavery for example?" from video introduction.


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