Category Archives: Barbara W. Tuchman

Nothing is More Unfair than to Judge the Men of the Past by the Ideas of the Present

Barbara W. Tuchman? Denys Arthur Winstanley? Anonymous?

trojan08Dear Quote Investigator: The popular historian Barbara W. Tuchman suggested that it was unfair to “judge men of the past by the ideas of the present”. She credited this interesting stance to an unnamed English historian. Yet, I have been unable to determine the identity of this astute chronicler; there was no footnote. Would you please trace this statement?

Quote Investigator: Barbara W. Tuchman was quoting the words of Denys Arthur Winstanley of The University of Cambridge as detailed in the 1912 citation presented further below.

Similar thoughts have been expressed on multiple occasions in the past. For example, in 1821 a literary journal printed an article titled “On the Character of Socrates” which included the following passage: 1

…we think nothing is more unfair than to judge of the sentiments of one age by the improved moral perceptions of another…

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1821, The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, Volume 1, On the Character of Socrates, Start Page 555, Quote Page 566, Henry Colburn and Co., London. (Google Books Full View) link