Twelve Tips for Winning an Online History Argument

Let’s face it, history discussions on Facebook (and other social media) can be rough.


But there’s really no need to stress, because here are twelve handy lines for you to whip out whenever you’re on the verge of losing a historical discussion. Use any of the following, hit “send,” and your opponents, reduced to dejected silence, will gather up what’s left of their shredded dignity and slink off to FarmVille.

  1. Well, it could have happened. We’ll never know.
  2. You weren’t there, and neither was I.
  3. It’s Tudor propaganda.
  4. I’ve been reading about this period for 30 [40/50/60] years.
  5. My parent/sibling/spouse/partner/child is a historian, I’ll have you know.
  6. I know it’s from a novel, but there has to be some truth to it or the author wouldn’t have written it that way.
  7. I saw it in a book. Look it up.
  8.  [Insert historical figure from 18th century or earlier] was my grandparent.
  9. I was [insert any historical figure, provided he or she was reasonably attractive and very well known] in a previous life. I just sense what happened.
  10. I’m entitled to my opinion.
  11. I don’t have time to read that.
  12. History is written by the victors.

N.B. : None of these lines need be deployed alone, but can be combined (and augmented with use of ALL CAPS and lots of exclamation points!!!!!).

Happy discussing!!!!!

10 thoughts on “Twelve Tips for Winning an Online History Argument”

  1. Brilliant! Advanced arguers can always attempt juxtaposing two extremes and saying ‘both these things can’t be true!’. Extra points if no-one – ever – actually uttered the words you’ve ‘quoted’.

  2. I’ve been subjected to several of these lines! LoL
    4 was phrased slightly different: I have been studying this subject for 10 years! Too bad this gentleman never learnt how to use the bits and pieces he found. His reasoning was like: I suggested something on page 30 of my manuscript. So, I can use it as a fact on page 60.
    Yes, okay, but where is even the slightest bit of proof for your suggestion on page 30?. When I asked something like that he would react with: I have been studying this for 10 years…
    This was a man writing on the Prince Tudor theory, developing it from Beauclerk’s theories onwards…

    The cutest was (in a discussion: did Jane Grey and Dudley fall in love): I saw it in a film! Kind of the moving variety of point 7.

  3. Anne Barnhill

    This cracked me up! I try to avoid such discussions since I write FICTION and feel a certain amount of flexibility is necessary with at least little known facts—Hope you are doing well. I’m hanging in there!

  4. Ahhhhh my favorite is #3. I was having a Richard debate and I asked them to please NOT respond with that…give me an actual answer. They couldn’t.

  5. Funny! A lot of these are applicable to any kind of on-line argument, not just historical … the main difference being the source of the propaganda.


  6. What would really make me happy is a moratorium on “If I were [Thomas Cromwell / Jane Seymour / Anne Boleyn / insert name here] I would never have [done something which looks awful / done something looks awful / done something which looks awful / done something which … you get the idea].” Yes, you would have! BECAUSE YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN THAT PERSON, AND THEY DID IT. And they did it with such completely different mindset, and in such a completely different context, that if you were somehow spirited back into their bodies it might suddenly look like the most moral thing to do! (Not invariably, none of these people were saints. But there’s so little we know about major events of long ago that the very, very best history still has tons of guesswork and no, we cannot know what it was like to be any of these people, and unless time travel is invented, we will never know).

    1. I agree, Sonetka! Especially since what seems moral at one time does not seem moral at another. For example, witchcraft trials, the burning of heretics, the treatment of Jews… The people who did that believed it was the right thing to do and we, looking back, think it was very wrong.

  7. ‘We know that..’ followed by some supposition that’s been repeated so often it’s taken for fact (a certain king’s funerary intentions come to mind).
    ‘All the sources are biased’ (a variant of #12).
    My all-time favourite from one of my tutors at uni: ‘Disagree with me by all means. But do remember I set and mark your finals paper’.

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