Are questions about political history of President Bush or Operation Enduring Freedom and the like on topic here? How recent is too recent? Where is the political science and political history line drawn?

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    Good question. Im unsure and probably only a voting can decide this. Contemporary History en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contemporary_history The task/duty of historians is to objecitfy statements of contempory witnesses. I would think this needs a time frame of at least 10 years historical research, until there are objective publications summarizing representative number of interviews with witnesses. So breaching of the Berlin Wall, Kosovo war is imho ontopic, 9/11, Bush, Arab spring are off-topic, as only subjective speculations and inquisitions are still running
    – Hauser
    Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 0:53
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    I don't see an issue with recent political history as long as it stays objective. Critique or evaluation based on political bias isn't welcome, but an unbiased look can be very informative. Questions such as the "Arab Spring" bring to light many past events (such as revolutionary 19th century Europe and it's leadership) and are great for historical evaluation. You can't put a date on history being history. Again, the key here is objectivity and legitimate source material. Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 1:49

4 Answers 4


I would say that they are as long as you can justify it with facts and not opinions. Some topics maybe disallowed (say "was the Iraq war a quagmire?") on the ground that we do not have the distance to see its repercussions. On the other hand, something like "Who was responsible for the Iraq surge" can be answered without too much controversy.

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    +1, I agree with this. I would say that controversial questions and answers are fine as long as they are backed by some validity, though. I think the real issue, for example the quagmire question would be it eliciting strong opinions. Same could be said if you asked "Was the war in Vietnam a quagmire?" for example. History by nature will have some controversy, but as long as it is backed up by unbiased fact and strays from being opinionated then it is still history. (also: Just saw your grounds that the Iraqi quagmire doesn't have enough distance to really see reprecutions! Bravo and true!) Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 13:03
  • It's funny how we can see clearly what happened long before us but not what's right in front of us.
    – user4951
    Commented Feb 10, 2013 at 18:14

I think that recent history type questions are inherently problematic for a couple of reasons.

First, the history has not yet been settled. The closer you are on the timeline to what it is you are asking about the more obfuscated the question, and answer, are by politics and uncertainty. Many of the questions about history concern cause and effect and we simply don't fully yet know the long term effects of things close to us.

Second, what is or isn't historically relevant has not yet been determined. Although the pressing political issues of our day may seem to be overwhelmingly important they could in fact turn out to be not that big of a deal when future generations look back upon our time period. Simply put we do not know what the future will deem important about our time. We can forecast all we want but then we aren't really engaging in historical analysis.

Those are my two cents on the issue, but really current events, are not as easily analyzed as historical events, which of course come with their own host of issues (sources, viewpoint bias, complexity) that make them almost as difficult to analyze.

  • "Many of the questions about history..aren't really engaging in historical analysis" - excellent points. But: Where do you draw the line? There is a continuum - as we move further along in time, our perception is constantly changing. Today we see medieval times very differently than how we saw them 100 years ago. So, at what point do we decide something has become history and not current events?
    – user2590
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 17:11
  • When is history settled? Relevant to what? Commented May 26, 2018 at 4:17

IMO we should try to keep such questions out of this site - along the lines of what Ihtkwot mentioned, these issues are 'too close to home' - dispassionate research and discussion might often be difficult or impossible.

We also risk attracting to the site visitors whose agenda is politics, not history: People interested in spreading their political ideology and promoting their particular political agenda, couched in the form of questions and answers.

More difficult is what the cut-off point should be - i.e. when does something become History and not Current Events. 5 years? A decade? An election cycle? Hard to say... Even the question about JFK's election in 1960 caused some problems, because although that election was over fifty years ago, it remains relevant to contemporary politics in a very direct way.

  • This. Back when the question was first asked, we didn't have Politics.SE. Now that a site dedicated to politics exists, it makes even more sense to keep History.SE focused on historical questions and avoid any kind of politics questions.
    – yannis
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 21:21
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    (deleted a bunch of comments about deleting comments) :-)
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 14:26

It's very hard to define. Using the examples given, President Bush is an non-sitting, ex US President which, for me, makes his Presidency historical and open to questions from a historical stand point.

The difficulty comes IMO, when asking questions about on going conflicts, programmes, policies etc. such as Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Herrick (as we Brits know it) that stem from , or started during, his Presidency. Seeing as they are ongoing it is difficult to analyse these events without bias - as Vector has quite rightly mentioned. While the start of the conflict could now be considered historical the end has not yet been decided - which for me means the topic should be avoided.

So, to generalise my point of view: Questions about recent history are not automatically off topic by their nature.

It is difficult to put a time frame on when something becomes history - for me, the nature and format and nature of SO sites provides us the best method of settling the issue of questions that might be about events that are too recent. If such a question is asked and one of us believes it to be about a topic that is too recent - vote to close and explain why. If the community agrees then it will close, if others believe it is a valid historical question it will not.

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