B. H. Roberts on a Non-Mormon Topic

An Exercise in Historiography

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For more that forty years B. H. Roberts’ Comprehensive History of the Church has been accepted by readers almost as an official interpretation of LDS Church history. One recent historical assessment of it concluded that even if modern scholarship has left certain chapters obsolete, the work is still an important starting point, is still worth reading, and no Mormon need be ashamed of Roberts as a scholar or historian. This thoughtful appraisal of the Comprehensive History is clearly justified insofar as its coverage of the Mormons is concerned, but there are some weaknesses and even some errors in topics on which Roberts was not an expert.

B. H. Roberts’ minor errors and omissions are not serious enough to challenge his credibility as a historian, but they do serve as a worthwhile exercise in historiography and a reminder to the rest of us historians that no matter how well done a history seems to be, continued research and updating will always be necessary.

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