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Wikipedia and the Future of the Past

In Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past, Roy Rosenzweig notes the following about the professional practice of history:

  • "History is a deeply individualistic craft. The singly authored work is the standard for the profession"; and
  • "Historical scholarship is also characterized by possessive individualism. Good professional practice (and avoiding charges of plagiarism) requires us to attribute ideas and words to specific historians."

These characteristics lead to the following observation:

"A historical work without owners and with multiple, anonymous authors is thus almost unimaginable in our professional culture. Yet, quite remarkably, that describes ... Wikipedia. ... History is probably the category encompassing the largest number of articles."

Can History be Open Source? Are Wikipedians good historians?
Rosenzweig's article seeks to answer some basic questions about history on Wikipedia. How did it develop? How does it work? How good is the historical writing? What are the potential implications for our practice as scholars, teachers, and purveyors of the past to the general public? Can history be open source? Are Wikipedians good historians?

Rosenzweig's evaluation of the athority of Wikipedia is one of the very best I've read. Strongly recommended.

Cross-posted on Law Librarian Blog. Hat tip to Ron Jones. [JH]

March 21, 2007 in Wikipedia | Permalink


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