Janet Uhlar | Personal Bias, Opinion, and Sensationalism Presented as Fact in Nonfiction: A 21st Century Problem

Personal Bias, Opinion, and Sensationalism Presented as Fact in Nonfiction: A 21st Century Problem

For thirty-five years I have studied the American Revolution. I do not have a PhD, master’s degree, or even a bachelor’s degree in history. I’m a nurse by profession.
In 4th grade I was introduced to the children’s historic classic Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes. The story transported my young mind to colonial Boston just before and during the first weeks of the War for Independence introducing me to historical characters I would go on to learn more about in my formal education. Yet, there were two individuals Ms. Forbes brought to life in her novel that I would not hear of again–Dr. Joseph Warren and Josiah Quincy Jr.

As an adult I wondered about these individuals whose portrayal in my childhood left such an impression. Thirty-five years ago I began to research their lives. I was astonished to discover the vital impact each made in the birth of the nation they would not live to witness. Indeed, had they not faced the challenges put before them our history as a nation would be vastly altered. Each died young. Each fell into the shadows of those who would prevail in positions of political power.

After the publication of my first book in 2000, Liberty’s Martyr: The Story of Dr. Joseph Warren (which also covers Josiah Quincy Jr.) I was drawn to the life of General Nathanael Greene—a man equally remarkable in his impact on our history. A man not simply overshadowed by those in power who out-lived him, but abandoned and seemingly negated by many. In 2011 Freedom’s Cost: The Story of General Nathanael Greene was first published.

Since the publication of both my books, biographies on Warren and Greene have been published as well as a nonfictional account of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Also, early 19th century biographies have been reprinted offering easy access to older, credible accounts.

Inexcusably, biographies on Warren and Greene as well as a 2013 account on the Battle of Bunker Hill have not, in my opinion, held to the standards of integrity for nonfiction. The authors take liberties in imposing judgment of character not based in fact. Such fictional license on the part of historians writing nonfiction is objectionable. The reader trusts in the credibility of the historian and most likely does not have the background on the subject to determine if the author is delving into personal bias rather than documented information.

With new information revealed and slanderous bias to counter I felt it was time to update both Freedoms’ Cost and Liberty’s Martyr. My updated work on General Nathanael Greene is now available through Amazon. I am currently working on further research regarding Dr. Joseph Warren and hope to have this book available in the autumn.

In blogs to follow I will address the specific reasons I committed to revising General Greene’s story.

Your thoughts are welcome.

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