Namier, Zionism and the Palestine question: a case study of objectivity, truth and balance in the writing of history

Lewis Namier was one of the best known and most respected historians of the first half of the twentieth century and beyond, noted for his stubborn pursuit of objectivity, truth and historical balance. This article offers a survey of Namier’s attitude to Zionism and the Palestine Question, and considers the extent to which he and a number of his friends and admirers were able to maintain such objectivity, truth and historical balance in the face of the threat posed to them and to others by the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe in the inter war years and the resulting holocaust. The answer, not surprisingly, is: not very far. Though a number of philosophers of history might well argue that, in this particular case at least, questions of objectivity, truth and balance were not relevant, as the case Namier makes for Jewish emigration to Palestine was essentially practical (as defined by Michael Oakeshott in his Experience and Its Modes, 1933 and On History, 1983) and not historical (again as defined by Oakeshott in the same books).