In 2000, a British judge found Deborah Lipstadt innocent of libel with respect to her book, Denying the Holocaust. The movie Denial, now in post-production, documents the real-life court battle between Holocaust-denier David Irving (played by Timothy Spall) and Professor Lipstadt (played by Rachel Weisz, pictured). Directed by Oscar-nominee Mick Jackson and based on the book Deborah Lipstadt wrote about the trial, the movie may be expected to emphasize the difference between conscientious or objective historical research and “histories” that knowingly and “deliberately mis-represent or manipulate historical evidence.”
David Irving waited to sue Lipstadt in the British courts because English libel law puts the burden of proof on the defendant rather than the plaintiff. Lipstadt and Penguin won the case by demonstrating in court that Lipstadt’s accusations against Irving were substantially true and therefore not libelous. Mr Justice Gray produced a written judgment 334 pages long detailing Irving’s systematic distortion of the historical record.
The trial was the first time a legal standard was established for historical objectivity. For those of us who don’t have time to master all 334 pages, Wendie E. Schneider distilled the ruling into seven concise principles:
1) Treat all sources with appropriate reservations. This is a principle too often ignored in treatments of Mormon history. One can often predict the leanings of a historian by which sources they will include without critical review and which sources they will pretend don’t even exist. Continue reading