In the current National Review, John J. Miller has a fascinating piece about history professor Timothy Messer-Kruse. Messer-Kruse became interested in finding out all that he could about the famous Haymarket Incident, which is an important part of the left/progressive narrative about the plight of labor in 19th-century America. The presumption among historians has long been that the people put on trial were innocent victims of a repressive society. Messer-Kruse believed that himself, until a question from a student caused him to look into the transcript of the trial. He came to the conclusion that the defendants were not innocent after all. Of course, when he wrote about his findings, he was blasted by leftist historians for having the nerve to challenge the prevailing (and politically useful) view.
Many years ago, Thomas Sowell wrote, “Before one can be a partisan of the poor, he must first be a partisan of the truth.” That idea pertains to historians as much as it does to economists. Let us applaud Professor Messer-Kruse for following the evidence where it leads, even if the truth undermines political mythology. Conversely, let us denounce those historians who would berate a fellow scholar for putting his desire to know the truth above ideological posturing.
Hat tip: Pat Peterson