A historian is a person who researches, studies and writes about the past, and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is concerned with events preceding written history, the individual is a historian of prehistory. Although "historian" can be used to describe amateur and professional historians alike, it is reserved more recently for those who have acquired graduate degrees in the discipline. Some historians, though, are recognized by publications or training and experience.〔Herman, A. M. (1998). Occupational outlook handbook: 1998-99 edition. Indianapolis: JIST Works. Page 525.〕 "Historian" became a professional occupation in the late nineteenth century as research universities were emerging in Germany and elsewhere.
During the ''Irving v Penguin Books and Lipstadt'' trial it became evident that the court needed to identify what was an "objective historian" in the same vein as the reasonable person, and reminiscent of the standard traditionally used in English law of "the man on the Clapham omnibus". This was necessary so that there would be a legal bench mark with which to compare and contrast the scholarship of an objective historian against the methods employed by David Irving, as before the ''Irving v Penguin Books and Lipstadt'' trial there was no legal precedent for what constituted an objective historian.
Justice Charles Gray leant heavily on the research of one of the expert witnesses, Richard J. Evans, who compared illegitimate distortion of the historical record practice by holocaust deniers with established historical methodologies.
In summarising Gray's judgement, in an article published in the ''Yale Law Journal'', Wendie E. Schneider distils these seven points for what he meant by an objective historian:
Schneider uses the concept of the "objective historian" to suggest that this could be used as an aid in assessing what makes a historian suitable to be an expert witnesses under the Daubert standard in the United States. Schneider proposed this, because, in her opinion, Irving could have passed the standard Daubert tests unless a court was given "a great deal of assistance from historians".
Schneider proposes that by testing a historian against the criteria of the "objective historian" then, even if a historian holds specific political views (and she gives an example of a well-qualified historian's testimony that was disregarded by a United States court because he was a member of a feminist group), providing the historian uses the "objective historian" standards, he or she is a "conscientious historian". It was Irving's failure as an "objective historian" not his right wing views that caused him to lose his libel case, as a "conscientious historian" would not have "deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence" to support his political views.〔"deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence" Justice Charles Gray 〕
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