GRE Reading Comprehension
In examining a source for information on a particular event or individual, a historian is confronted with a multitude of difficulties, including dating the source, conceptions of truth and history at the time of its composition, the intentions of the author, and so on. Although there is a scattering of historical treatises from the past that have been praised for their apparent historicity, such as Thucydides' history of the Peloponnesian War, even in these there are concerns about impartiality. Thucydides is often considered the first "modern historian" -- eschewing the gods or fate as an explanation for events, focusing rather on human actions and choices -- but many of his political rivals are painted in a particularly unflattering light, once again raising the question of his intent and objectivity.
The greatest difficulty in the study of history may well be summarized in the phrase "history is written by the victor" intentionally or not, the author's "side" will inevitably be painted as the "good guys." This is even true in modern times, such as the downplaying of atrocities by the Allies in World War II, particularly Joseph Stalin and the NKVD. Nevertheless, in the study of history, information must come from somewhere, and so it is important to take care in assessing the values and interests of any given author (of course, in some cases the author's identity may not even be known). Many efforts have been made to counteract the biases of historical documents, but some doubts will inevitably remain.
Which of the following statements is NOT supported by the passage?
- A It is sometimes difficult to tell what in a historical source is accurate.
- B Modern day historians are less biased than those in the past.
- C Even the works of historians lauded for impartiality can have a bias.
- D Thucydides' writing suggests a bias against those known to be his rivals.
- E There may still be historical value in biased documents.
Correct Answer: B