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Everybody has read the What topics can I ask about here? page as we all need clarity on whether a question will be welcome before developing it. The rules forbid questions about "the future", they invite questions on "historical events", and explicitly allow "current political history".

Some questions about recent events have been accused of violating an unwritten ban on "current events". This inspecific label applies to recent history, the present, and the near future, which must be treated differently. Questions on the future are off limits, and those on the present moment are allowed at least on political topics. Past events are of course the main attraction on this site.

There is no delay after an event before records are manifest. Information like chronologies and measurements are in the historical record immediately. Historians are forever appearing on talk shows to remark on current events. There is a substantial academic subfield called contemporary history, which was also practiced by the ancient Greeks. Nonetheless, there are doubters (How long before an event gets into history?, How old does an event have to be to be considered 'History'?).

We have no rule about recent history and the lack of clarity is a problem. If you intend to downvote or complain about questions on recent events, please answer with the rule you would like to see adopted. I will add an answer for "recent history is on topic".

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I'd certainly agree that recent history is on-topic, and I'd also agree that with Denis that the line between recent history and current events can be blurred.

However, I'm not sure that I'd agree with your assertion that

There is no delay after an event before records are manifest. Information like chronologies and measurements are in the historical record immediately.

Yes, some records become available immediately. Others take longer. In the example of the Royal wedding, the video was live, and so part of the record was indeed immediate. However, here in the UK we are still being bombarded with adverts for "the special souvenir issue" of this or that magazine, and stories about the event are still appearing as "news" items in broadcast and print media.

In fact, it takes time for the historical record to become established.

  • On the one hand we have the "fake news" stories that proliferate on social media. An example of this was the claim that the death-toll in the fire at Grenfell Tower in June 1017 was actually in the hundreds and that the authorities were covering this up. We now know that 81 people died in the fire. However, it was almost 3 weeks after the fire before the police and fire service were able to give a definitive figure. The public enquiry into the fire has just started, 11 months later.
  • On the other, we have genuine human error, when facts are reported in error. This latter category is not something new. A famous example being the Chicago Daily Tribune headline Dewey Defeats Truman in November 1948.

These types of story both form part of the historical record, but it can take time before they are recognised for what they are and we understand where they should fit within the historical narrative.

I would say that the 1948 US Presidential election definitely counts as history. The Grenfell Tower fire is still a current event, and the ongoing public enquiry means that it will probably remain a current event for some time to come - possibly years.

And the Royal wedding? Well, that certainly still feels like a current event. At this moment, I think that the historical record is still being written, and so it may be too soon to apply historical methods in order answer questions about the event.


I don't think there can be any rule about when events pass from the realm of 'current events' into the domain of 'history'. It depends on the nature of the events. It may be weeks or months. It may be years. Sometimes it may even be decades.

But even though the old adage maintains that today's newspapers are tomorrow's fish & chip wrappers, I'm not sure that the boundary between 'current events' and 'history' can ever be just a few days.

  • Agreed -- not all records are produced or available immediately. Even accepted older material is found to be falsified sometimes (Augustus le Plongeon, Ivan Petroff). If I understood, you want us to post only after the historical record is "established". – Aaron Brick May 27 '18 at 4:20
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    More or less. I would argue that we can't apply historical methods to the records until those records are written and available. In my opinion (and it is just my opinion, not site policy), if those records are still being produced then the event is probably still current. – sempaiscuba May 27 '18 at 10:13
  • I like this concept, but I wouldn't want to wait most of a century before important oral histories are recorded. – Aaron Brick May 27 '18 at 21:00
  • @AaronBrick Recording the oral histories isn't what we are talking about here. In fact that is absolutely a part of establishing the historical record. The question here is simply when is that record sufficiently well established for us to apply historical methods and effectively answer questions about events. – sempaiscuba May 29 '18 at 19:39
  • Please clarify how you propose to recognize "sufficiently well established" records. – Aaron Brick May 29 '18 at 22:45
  • I thought I already had. When we can apply historical methods and effectively answer questions about events. I'd argue that if the record is still being written, then it's probably too soon to apply those methods and hope to obtain meaningful answers. – sempaiscuba May 29 '18 at 22:53
  • I'm afraid that we may not concur about when that becomes the case. – Aaron Brick Aug 7 '18 at 0:54
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To me, there's a fuzzy line that needs to be drawn to distinguish current events from history. Where to draw it can arguably be debated to death. Personally, I'd usually draw it at when a generation or two has come to age after the event and its short-term ramifications have all played out to their conclusions. Put another way, an event becomes history when it no longer is a vivid part of a new generation's collective memory.

The point in drawing this line is to give enough time for the dust to settle. Information presented as facts at the time of an event may turn out to be false or incomplete; there can be good calls and misjudgments on the likely effects and legacy of an event; etc. When there are enough adults in the street who weren't born when an event and its short-term ramifications were in full motion, methinks everyone can agree the event is history; before that, it's still a current event in my opinion.

This definition, as an aside, makes where to draw the line very fuzzy depending on the event and its significance. Indeed, some events can stay current for a very long time.

I'd argue that 9/11, for instance, is still a current event to a large degree in the sense that what its immediate aftereffects (the war on terror, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc.) arguably are still in full motion. I can still vividly remember the before and the after 9/11; methinks it'll take another generation or two before we can all agree it should be filed under history.

Similarly, I'd put forward that the GD and WW2 stayed current events for a very long time - possibly over two generations. As an anecdote, my parents grew up into adults that carried over - albeit to a much lesser degree - the obsessions of their own parents with having little to no debt in case of job loss, a garden in case of food shortages, and a chimney in case of fuel shortages. Both were born a few years after WW2, but the scars of the latter took a while to disappear.

I think we can agree that the crowd giggle during the Royal Wedding is someone cracking a joke at one point with the joke not getting picked up by any microphones. We might learn what the joke was in a few weeks or months or years - assuming ever - when someone who actually witnessed the event discusses it.

As for your Sephardic peoples question, the laws were passed only a few years ago - which in government time is just about yesterday. Government sites might have some raw numbers, hence my suggestion to ask in Politics. But for the rest, I'm fairly certain we'll need a generation or two to get enough witness accounts of how things went before anyone is able to unequivocally say proof of descent was easier or harder than jumping through administrative hoops. (Plus it most certainly varies with the family.)

  • I sure agree that our judgments about past events can become more accurate and nuanced over time. If I understood, you want us to post only after an event's "short-term ramifications" have subsided. – Aaron Brick May 27 '18 at 4:14
  • @DenisdeBernady Total side comment, but I "believe" the laughter at the Royal Wedding was when Harry said "I will' and his brother quipped " No, I'm Will!" – TheHonRose Jun 3 '18 at 12:34
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I dislike arbitrary rules, and some of these answers point out variable conditions such as 'fake news' and information which only overcomes emotional or political bias after some time before it can be looked at logically as 'history'.

I have noticed when researching other questions, a rule over on Reddit, which I would fully support applying to this site: They define on-topic for their History forum as older than 20 years. Well defined, and it takes much of the current biases, politics and emotionalism out of the picture. It fits or it doesn't.

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    The 20 is arbitrary too but it has the virtue of being certain. – Aaron Brick May 27 '18 at 20:52
  • At least in the US the 20 year designation has been used in other areas, such as the defining range for 'classic' cars, and it used to determine how long before a song was considered 'classic' rock. It is also often considered the length of a 'generation' in genealogy. – justCal May 29 '18 at 16:16
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    If the event might benefit from declassification of DoD information, the relevant numbers there are 10 years, 25, 50, and 75. 10 is the earliest, 25 years is an automatic declassification review, at 75 keeping info classified requires special permission from Congress (it takes a literal "Act of Congress"). – T.E.D. May 30 '18 at 16:12
  • Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo in his Bancroft testimonio (reportedly pp. 5:240-241) also uses a twenty-year rule. – Aaron Brick Jul 11 '18 at 6:33
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Questions on the future are off limits, and those on the present moment are allowed at least on political topics.

Considering we have a dedicated SE for politics, it seems to me that questions about current political events are a better fit there. Several others have already described the problems encountered when trying to apply historical methods to relatively recent events (let alone the present.) If there were no other home for these questions, that might be a better argument for having them be on-topic here. But we do have another home for them on politics.se.

Due to the difficulty of applying normal historical methods to current/recent events and the fact that we do have another (more fitting, IMO) home for questions about current/recent political events, I see no compelling reason for those questions to be on-topic here.

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Recent History usually is called journalism. But as far as I know, SE does not have a forum for that. So in the meantime maybe is not that bad to have questions about recent history.
Maybe the point is not how recent an event is, but how we can declare that an event has passed from journalism to history. For example, Siria civil war or Angela Merkel goverment are not history yet, but Obama goverment or economic crisis of 2008 in USA are already history.

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    2007-2009 economic crisis is not history yet. It's unfinished business from the dot com bubble that toppled and it'll topple again - once or more - at some point in the future until the bad debt gets recognized and flushed out of the system. – Denis de Bernardy May 28 '18 at 20:37
  • There is a Politics site though, which owuld fit almost any too recent question that I can imagine landing here. – Pieter Geerkens Jul 20 '18 at 20:39
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The moderators (participants) of of this site have agreed that current events are history.

H:SE is a community moderated site, and I think the community has reached a consensus; I've stated it above for simplicity of future reference, but I reserve the right to articulate a minority opinion before I conform to the norm.

  • many current events questions are "what happened" - factual questions that are out of scope on the "too basic' rule. I mention this only to exclude this class, because if the event is not trivial, then the following factors become more important.

  • Discussion of current events generally takes place in the context of incomplete information. Current events usually rely on the interpretation of a single source, and almost by definition there are active participants who want to suppress, shape or control that source. If the event isn't trivial, then the meaning and significance of the event is under discussion by multiple parties. History is in the process of being written by the victors.

  • Discussion of current events generally has few secondary and no tertiary sources. There is no way to distinguish between "current events", "propaganda" and "fake news". There is no analysis or interpretation of events, merely assertions by sources with agendas. I started to include here an example of a story I remember being reported on a major news media outlet that turned out to be entirely fictitious; but if I provide the details, this will degenerate into a political discussion of those particular events. What makes history interesting is analyzing the events of the past to better understand the present. I believe that analyzing the events of the present to understand the present is a different activity (might be called journalism, might be called navel-gazing). Mixing this with history diminishes the value of both.

  • I actively reject the notion that everything that happened more than 1 attosecond ago is history; history is a narrative we construct. History is a verb; it is the process of understanding events. If history were a simple recounting of events, then it would be impossible to have Marxist historians and Feminist historians and Whig historians - history would be objective, and clear (quite frankly, there would be no college level courses in history, and no degrees in history). If history were just events, then it would be so boring as to not merit a stack exchange. Asserting that anything that happened is history is tantamount to saying that math is just counting.

  • I have previously argued that if the answer is derived from historical sources and methods, then it is a history question, but if the answer is derived from rhetorical methods, it is current events. An analysis of the any sequence events can be either historical, rhetorical or political depending on the tools used for analysis. There is no bright line between the analysis; which is why the site is community moderated; we rely on consensus of the participants. I'd argue that we should continue to do so. If we find a specific question to be historical, then it is; if we find it to be current events, then for the purposes of this SE, it is.

  • Is your title correct, or should it be negated? – Pieter Geerkens Jul 20 '18 at 20:41
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Recent history is on topic for this site.

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