From the National Review 65th Anniversary issue, How to Write History ( in the hard copy it was Robert’s Rules pf History) by Andrew Roberts:
To try to immerse oneself in the mindset of the long-dead is easily the hardest part of the historian’s craft, and the most treacherous. The further one goes back in history, the harder it is. Reach back much earlier than the Western Enlightenment and one must be good at theology, because educated people spent what is to us an inordinate amount of time thinking about God and how He should best be worshiped. Go back much further than the Renaissance, and people spent a good deal of their time simply being scared. Recall the very earliest moments of COVID-19 a year ago, when we didn’t know how lethal it was but a lot of people were starting to die. That was what it was like living in the Dark Ages all the time, only with a good deal less information.
Trying to impose our mindset — let alone our values — upon the past is self-evidently ludicrous, however often it is tried and however well intentioned. There is no such thing, for example, as “the right side of history.” We might want people in the past to be more like us, but they resolutely refuse to be, and we must respect their right to be different.
It is unprofessional for historians to view the multifarious and complex motivations of millions of people over hundreds of years through a single prism, as for example the 1619 Project does in its attempt to view all American history solely through the monstrous story of slavery. Similarly, although more and more people believe in conspiracy theories, they do not make good history. If there is a choice between a conspiracy and a mess, the truth is usually the mess. Or a messed-up conspiracy.