How David Barton Does History

Today, the American Family Association hosted a special two-hour episode of “Today’s Issues” with Tim Wildmon featuring David Barton in order to promote the new WallBuilders “Building On The American Heritage Series” DVD program.

Most of the program featured Barton just peddling his standard half-truths and pseudo-history, but near the end, they opened up the phone lines to take questions.  One of the questions came from a woman Holly who asked Barton how he had learned so much about history and Barton replied that the greatest source of his information has been original documents. 

In fact, Barton said, if you want to know about history, you should not read contemporary history books but rather books that were written and published during the period in which you are interested.  So if you want to learn about the 1700s, don’t read modern history books about that time period, but read books written during that time period.

Barton said that the reason for this is that modern professors and historians all have agendas and bad educations that writers before the 1900s did not have. And so he set out his standard for determining the accuracy of history books:

I hold a standard that if a book is printed 1900, it is probably one hundred percent accurate because there are no agendas. If it’s printed from 1920-1940, I’ll buy into maybe seventy-five percent of it. If it’s printed from, 1940-1960, I’ll buy into about fifty percent of it. If it’s printed from 1960s on, I’ll buy into maybe a forth of it; I have that much doubt about books that are written more recently because they reflect agendas, they reflect bad education, they reflect bad stuff.

Given that this is the standard Barton uses for determining the validity of modern history books, I guess we should point out the every book Barton has written has been printed after the 1960s, which must mean that, at best, a quarter of the claims he makes are accurate.