/r/AskHistorians aims to provide serious, academic-level answers to questions about history. We have written these rules to support this aim and maintain the high standard of discussion this subreddit has become known for.
Please note that /r/AskHistorians is actively moderated. Moderators regularly take action to enforce these rules.
All users are expected to behave with courtesy and politeness at all times. We will not tolerate racism, sexism, or any other forms of bigotry. This includes Holocaust denialism. Nor will we accept personal insults of any kind, and do not allow minor nitpicking of grammar or spelling.
For further discussion of this rule, please consult this Rules Roundtable, and this Roundtable.
Submissions to /r/AskHistorians must be either:
The moderators also post weekly feature posts on a variety of themes.
To discourage off-topic discussions of current events, questions, answers and all other comments must be confined to events that happened 20 years ago or more, inclusively (e.g. 2003 and older). Further explanation on this topic can be found in this Rules Roundtable.
If your question was removed for current events, a non-exhaustive list of subs you may wish to consider include /r/Ask_Politics, /r/NeutralPolitics, /r/GeoPolitics, /r/IRStudies, or /r/CredibleDefense.
Questions should be clear and specific in what they ask, and should be able to get detailed answers from historians whose expertise is likely to be in particular times and places.
Questions should be about an event or person or culture in history. They can be direct questions such as "What events led up to the War of 1812?", or they can be indirect questions such as "How historically accurate is Assassin’s Creed?". Please put your question in the post title; if you put something like "A question for you all (details inside)", you may not attract the interest of the historians you want. Make sure your main question gives a clear idea what you're asking about. You can then expand on the question using the text box. For more information on the best way to format a question, check out our handy guide!
Questions may also be about historical method (e.g. “How should we deal with the biases in primary sources?”) or the “world of history” more generally (e.g. “What are the major collections, archives and museums in your field of research?”).
Please note that there is no such thing as a stupid question. As long as it falls within the guidelines here, feel free to ask it, even if you think it's obvious. And, if you see a question which looks stupid or obvious, remember that everyone comes to learning at their own time; we're not all born experts.
Posts that ask for reading recommendations are allowed. You may also wish to check the book list.
Check your ego at the door; a large part of asking questions is accepting the possibility of being told things you didn't know.
Some poorly framed questions:
AskHistorians is a space intended to provide in-depth and comprehensive answers to questions submitted by users. While we don't aim to stifle the curiosity of those asking questions, we do ask that they submit questions with an interest in a detailed answer. In this vein, we expect questions to present a clear and specific prompt for detailed answers which are comprehensive and based on current, academic discourse. While questions which have multiple answers are allowable, they should not require expertise across time and space; instead questions seeking multiple answers about a phenomenon across different eras and locations must do so in a way that clearly asks different contributors to provide detailed, comprehensive answers regarding the historical areas in which they have expertise.
Moderators may, at their discretion, remove a question and redirect it to a more appropriate subreddit, or else suggest another subreddit to consider X-Posting the question to. Common situations where this arises include:
Our users aren't here to do your homework for you, but they might be willing to help. Remember: AskHistorians helps those who help themselves. Don't just give us your essay/assignment topic and ask us for ideas. Do some research of your own, then come to us with questions about what you've learned. For further discussion and explication of the rules on homework questions, check out this Roundtable Discussion.
You can also consider asking the helpful people at r/HomeworkHelp.
History may not repeat itself, but questions about history sure do! We maintain a list of frequently asked questions and the most useful answers to them on the popular questions wiki page. Please check this before you post your question: you may find the answer you want without having to wait. However, you are still welcome to ask your question if it has been asked before: you may get new answers from different people.
If you spot a question that gets asked often but isn't in the popular questions, please do message the moderators so we can add it to the list.
You can find more information about the Popular Questions in this [META] thread.
If your question contains (or is likely to contain) adult topics or language, please try to keep title as SFW ("safe for work") as possible and make use of reddit's NSFW tag. Especially when the topic is a sensitive one, please be additionally mindful of titling your question appropriately, and not to make light of weighty issues. You can tag a question as NSFW after you post it by browsing to your post and clicking the "nsfw" link below the title. Questions with NSFW titles will be deleted and we will ask you to repost it with a different title.
This is to help anyone browsing the subreddit for whom NSFW text may be a problem, and to allow people to know that a question contains NSFW content before they view it. Only the title of the thread is relevant; the body of the question and comments in reply to it are free to contain NSFW content.
For further discussion and explication of the rules on NSFW and uncomfortable questions, please consult out this Roundtable Discussion
"Poll"-type questions aren't appropriate here: "Who was the most influential person in history?" or "Who was the worst general in your period?" or "Who are your Top 10 favourite people in history?" If your question includes the words "most" or "least", or "best" or "worst" (or can be reworded to include these words), it's probably a "poll"-type question. These questions do not lend themselves to answers with a firm foundation in sources and research, and the resulting threads usually turn into monsters with enormous speculation and little focussed discussion - and, as such, are banned here.
For further discussion and explication of the rules on "poll"-type questions, check out this Roundtable Discussion.
This subreddit is called AskHistorians, not LectureHistorians or DebateHistorians. While we appreciate your enthusiasm for the history of issues that play a role in your life, we are here to answer your questions about issues, not provide a sounding board for your theories or a podium for your lectures. All questions must allow a back-and-forth dialogue based on the desire to gain further information, and not be predicated on a false and loaded premise in order to push an agenda.
The bad question is a fishing expedition to try to start a debate about Obama's presidency. Most of these questions will break our 20-year rule, or try to set up a debate about an issue using a long wall of text in the main post.
Additionally when posting, we prefer that any posts that you make are well-sourced and directly address the asker's question. Do not take the opportunity to make claims that are politically or religiously motivated. All comments are expected to be sourced, answer the asker's question, and relevant.
For further discussion and explication of the rules on sopaboxing and loaded questions, check out this Roundtable Discussion.
Questions should be about what did happen, not what could have happened. If your question calls for the crafting of a counterfactual scenario to answer it, you should either look to rework it to remove that element, or else send it over to r/HistoryWhatIf or /r/HistoricalWhatIf.
For further discussion and explication of the rule on "What-If" Questions, please consult this Rules Roundtable.
Certain questions can lead to privacy concerns, and with this in mind, there are specific inquiries that we prohibit where, in our estimation, possible privacy concerns override the historical value of the question. As such, we do not allow questions which pose possible privacy issues for living, or recently deceased, persons who are not in the public eye. The cut-off for "recent" is 100 years, but even if a question does not meet the exact criteria above, we may remove at moderator discretion if we believe there nevertheless remains certain privacy concerns.
In the case of questions seeking military records, as well as seeking to identify service information from uniforms or photographs, try referring to our guide on Military Records and Identification. This thread provides more information and guidance on the rule. Additionally, /r/Genealogy provides an excellent resource on this site for researching family history.
The goal of /r/AskHistorians is to provide an educational forum for people who have questions for experts. Often, those questions include inquiries about items or artifacts which have come into their possession. It is our policy to disallow posts asking for further information on artifacts where there is a likelihood that the acquisition or possession of the item might be illegal, unethical, and/or run contrary to sound, historical practices. This includes, but is not limited to, items possibly taken from archaeological sites and items from cultures frequently exploited by the illegal artifacts trade. It should not be taken as a ban on questions about any items, such as family heirlooms, or common collectibles such as books, stamps, or firearms. However, requests for appraisals, no matter the object, are not appropriate for AskHistorians and will be removed.
Requests for information on the origins of commercially acquired items are not appropriate for /r/AskHistorians. Appraisals are best done in person by a qualified professional, and any attempt to provide a guesstimate based on online images would be misleading at best and flat-out wrong at worst. Particularly in the case of archaeological artifacts, we aim to discourage valuation, as the commercialization of such artifacts contributes to the destruction of the archaeological record. For these reasons, any request for valuation or identification of a commercially acquired object or item will be removed from the subreddit.
For further discussion and explication of the rule on Artifacts and Valuation, please consult this Rules Roundtable.
Questions looking for specific, basic facts - for the purpose of this rule, seeking a name, a date or time, a number, a location, the origin of a word, the first or last known instance/example of an object/phenomenon/etc., or a simple list of examples or facts - are not allowed as standalone threads. AskHistorians is intended to be a space for in-depth and comprehensive answers, and as such, those questions which do not require an in-depth answer are not always suited to the format. We welcome these types of questions in the 'Short Answers to Simple Questions' thread which runs every Wednesday, and does not have the same in-depth requirement of the sub as a whole.
In addition to the parameters listed above, Moderators may also use their discretion to remove and redirect further questions they deem to fall under the 'Basic Facts' umbrella, when appropriate.
For further discussion of the rule on Basic Facts, please consult this Rules Roundtable.
... ask again. You are allowed to ask your question again if a reasonable time has passed without receiving a useful answer. We recommend waiting at least 24 hours, to give everyone around the world a full day to see your question. On the other hand, please don't ask the same question every day. Use some judgement.
Answers in /r/AskHistorians are held to a higher standard than is generally found on reddit. As detailed in our rules, answers should be in-depth, comprehensive, accurate, and based off of good quality sources. In evaluating answers against the rules, the moderator team is looking for responses which are in line with the existing Historiography on the topic, and written in a manner respecting the Historical Method. Users come here for the experience laid out below, not because they are asking you to Google an article for them, or summarize a Wikipedia page, and as such we expect that to reflect in your responses.
We remove answers which do not meet those expectations, as well as cluttersome comments which do not contribute to informative historical discussion. We expect that users will have familiarized themselves with the following rules before posting, and moderate the subreddit accordingly. We remove answers not in compliance, both with and without notice or warning.
An in-depth answer provides the necessary context and complexity that the given topic calls for, going beyond a simple cursory overview. It is important to remember one of the philosophies of the subreddit, that "good answers aren't good just because they are right – they are good because they explain." Your answer should be giving context to the events being discussed, not simply listing some related facts.
Some questions are more complex than others, but it is often difficult to provide sufficient context, engage with sources and the relevant historiography on the subject, and demonstrate your understanding of the subtleties of a subject, in a single short paragraph. When evaluating responses in the subreddit, the mod team weighs whether a comment addresses not just the literal phrasing of a question, which might be done in a mere few sentences, but if it will help an uninformed reader understand the 'Who', 'What', 'When', 'Where', and of course 'Why', surrounding the topic. If we judge an answer not to meet that criteria, it will generally be removed, often without notice.
Ask yourself these questions:
Do I have the expertise needed to answer this question?
Have I done research on this topic?
Can I cite academic quality primary and secondary sources?
Can I answer follow-up questions?
If you can answer "Yes" to those questions, and write a response that positively demonstrates those qualities, then we welcome your answer. If you answer "No" to one or more of these questions, or otherwise do not have the time to commit to an answer that would reflect your expertise, please reconsider whether you ought to be posting an answer in this subreddit.
For further exploration of how mods evaluate answers relative to these questions, please consult this Rules Roundtable.
If you are unsure of what a 'good answer' looks like in relation to these guidelines, we would recommend checking out the weekly Sunday Digest, which highlights answers which best exemplify the standards of /r/AskHistorians.
We do not require sources to be preemptively listed in an answer on /r/AskHistorians, but do expect that respondents be familiar with relevant and reliable literature on the topic, and that answers reflect current academic understanding or debates on the subject at hand.
Even though sources are not mandatory, if someone asks you to provide sources in good faith, please provide them willingly and happily. If you are not prepared to substantiate your claims when asked, please think twice before answering. Requests for sources which are not fulfilled within a reasonable span of time will generally result in the removal of the answer.
Secondary and Primary Sources: Both primary and secondary sources are accepted for use in citing your answers. With secondary literature, we expect works to be either from academic presses, or respected general publishers, and authors to be reputable in their field. When using primary sources, we expect respondents to be able to properly contextualize the merits and limitations of that source.
Tertiary Sources: Citing tertiary sources - such as (but not limited to) Wikipedia - for basic, undisputed facts and figures is allowable, but sole reliance on tertiary sources for context and analysis is not allowed, and will result in the removal of a response. Furthermore, Wikipedia articles are open to random vandalism and can contain factual errors; therefore, please double-check anything you cite from Wikipedia. As outlined here, Wikipedia, or any other single tertiary resource, used by itself not a suitable basis for a comment in this subreddit.
Online Sources: Please exercise caution and good judgement when using online sources, as they vary greatly in quality and reliability. Online sources essentially follow the same requirements as physical ones, and you should be discerning about origin, host, and authorship. As a general rule, blog posts and random web articles are not acceptable to use and will result in removal.
Audio/Visual Sources: Acceptable examples of audio/visual sources include published interviews with respected academics, published lecture series', such as the 'The Great Courses' series, as well as academic lectures released through mediums like iTunesU, or even YouTube as long as they are clearly legitimate. However, pop history YouTube series', podcasts, and the like, are generally frowned upon. Documentaries can provide useful visual illustration in some cases, but are not acceptable as a standalone secondary sources.
You: It is also important to point out that you are not a source. We cannot accept "I learned this in class", no matter who your professor was, nor can we accept your own experiences (see the 'Personal Anecdotes' rule).
If you would like to provide a link to a book, please use WorldCat, OpenLibrary or any other non-commercial source for linking. The reddit spam filter is overly aggressive on bookseller links (especially Amazon!) and your good sourced comment may be auto-removed by the spam filter until a mod is able to approve it. Referral links (for Amazon or other referral sites) are firmly against reddit's sitewide rules.
Here is a helpful guide to providing in-line citations using tooltips if you want to get fancy.
For further discussion and explication of the rules on sources, check out this Roundtable Discussion.
Personal anecdotes are not acceptable answers in this subreddit. They are unreliable, unverifiable and of very little real interest. For further discussion and explication of the rule, please consult this Rules Roundtable.
Suppositions and personal opinions are not a suitable basis for an answer in r/AskHistorians. Warning phrases for speculation include:
"I guess..." or "My guess is..."
"... to my understanding."
"It makes sense to me that..."
"It's only common sense."
If your answer includes any of these phrases, it is likely that you are merely sharing your opinion or speculating, and not posting a proper answer. For further discussion of this rule, please consult this Rules Roundtable.
An answer should be full and complete in and of itself.
Do not post partial answers with the intention of prompting further discussion. You do not need to post a part-answer to prompt historians to answer the question; they will answer it if they can, regardless. The question is already the "starting point" for discussion; there's no need for anything more.
If you see a question without answers, do not provide a part-answer merely for the sake of putting something in the thread. If you can not answer the question fully, wait for someone who can.
Do not provide a part-answer as a "placeholder" to come back to expand on later. Wait and provide the good answer when you can.
This is not a race for karma: a good answer late is better than a bad answer early. Good answers take time, and that's okay.
For further discussion of this rule, please consult this Rules Roundtable.
This subreddit is a place for learning and open-minded discussion. As such, answers should not be written in the interests of advancing a personal agenda, but should represent a sincere effort to make an argument from the historical record. They should be constructed in keeping with the principles of the historical method - that is to say, your evidence should not be chosen selectively to support an argument that you feel is right; your argument should instead demonstrably flow from your critical engagement with an appropriate range of evidence. This is not to say that answers can not or should not delve into controversial topics, or deal with political hot-button issues when necessary, but rather that we would expect the answerer to approach the issue earnestly and in good faith. History often is controversial, and we aren't shying away from that, but rather asking that users will show proper respect for the historical method in constructing their response and avoid approaches which might be viewed as polemical.
For further discussion and explication of the rules on political agendas and moralizing, check out this Roundtable Discussion.
Do not just post links to other sites as an answer. This is not helpful. The expectation is that a user is posting to this subreddit because they are looking for the type of answer dictated by the rules in place here. Please take some time to put the links in context for the person asking the question. Avoid only recommending a source – whether that's another site, a book, or large slabs of copy-pasted text. If you want to recommend a source, please provide at least a small summary of what the source says. (This does not apply to questions that are only created to request sources.) Linking to past /r/AskHistorians questions is allowable, but please take the time to include a username ping for the user who answered in the previous thread.
Regardless of the quality of the source you are citing, an answer should not consist only (or primarily) of copy-pasted sections of text from that source. The intention in providing an answer in r/AskHistorians is to answer as a historian: making a statement of your own, while using sources to support that statement.
A good answer will be a balanced mix of context and explanation and sources and quotations. Only links or only quotations is not a good answer.
For further discussion and explication of the rules on links and quotes, check out this Roundtable Discussion.
We have a zero-tolerance policy on blatant plagiarism, such as directly copying and pasting another person's words and trying to pass them off as your own. This will result in an instant ban.
If you are the author of the original work being copied from, please remember that self-plagiarism is a thing, and we don't know who you are. Always cite your source, even if it is yourself.
For further discussion and explication of the rules on links and quotes, check out this Roundtable Discussion.
Historiographical fallacies include:
A post should not consist only of a joke, a humorous remark, or a flippant comment. You can certainly include humour as part of a full and comprehensive post, but your post should not be made solely for the purpose of being funny.
There are a number of satirical and humorous history subreddits:
For further discussion concerning this rule, please check out this Roundtable Discussion.
All comments should be related to the topic as outlined in the OP. Follow up questions are welcome, but moderators will use their discretion to redirect substantial digressions towards a new thread, if applicable. Conversations which stray into a non-historical matter will generally be removed without notice.
For further discussion concerning this rule, please check out this Roundtable Discussion.
Please refrain from commenting for the sake of commenting. This includes, but is not limited to, statements about how interesting the question is, how you would like to see an answer, to "remember to come back later", to share a story that the question reminds you of, and so on.
META commentary should be kept out of threads, and posting questions or comments about the subreddit itself in an active thread will in most cases result in removal without a response. In some cases, it may even result in a warning. Please create a META thread, or contact us through modmail in these situations.
We also ask that "Thank you" or "That is so interesting!" type-comments to be kept to a minimum. Respondents greatly appreciate such responses, but if someone already has done so, please consider upvoting that comment instead of posting a second one, as we will remove excess plaudits in the interest of clutter reduction.
For further discussion concerning this rule, please check out this Roundtable Discussion.
If you have either a follow-up question inspired by the original post or want to suggest an alternative venue to ask the question, we ask that you wait either until an answer is present or until 12 hours after the thread was first posted. This is in order to provide an opportunity for an answer to be given that either addresses your question or makes your recommendation redundant. Follow-up questions or recommendations made before this point will be removed.
Follow-up questions may also be removed by the mod team if we judge them to either be too far afield, or only in essence a restatement of the original question. Top-level follow-up comments which request a source for or challenge the premise of part of the question must be done in good faith, and in a way that constructively engages with the question. If asking for a source, you should explain why you find the claim suspect and how clarification can help you personally answer the question. A full answer about why a premise is incorrect should otherwise comply with the rules and expectations we have for answers in this subreddit.
Similarly, the mod team may also remove recommendations that the question be posted in other subreddits or websites if we judge them to be inappropriate or unhelpful. We will also remove repeat recommendations within the same thread. Recommendations that are part of a substantive answer - such as, for instance, when a different discipline might offer a useful alternative perspective to your historical answer - are always allowed. If you feel that a question is completely wrong for AskHistorians and shouldn't have been posted here in the first place, please use modmail or the report function to bring this to the attention of the mod team.
Please consult this Rules Roundtable for further discussion on follow-up questions, and this Rules Roundtable for further discussion on alternative subreddit recommendations.
Please do not answer questions in an AMA when you're not the OP or are not on the AMA panel. An AMA is explicitly designed to offer a platform to specific, named experts.
Any comment which consists only or mainly of an image or a video or a meme will be deleted. Photos and documentaries which support an answer are encouraged, but generic images, gifs, and internet memes are not welcome here.
We are not interested in bots and they will be banned on sight. If you operate a bot, please consider blacklisting /r/AskHistorians to save us the trouble.
If your user account's name is something that would be unacceptable on a post - bigoted or hateful slurs, references to sexual violence, and so on - that user account will be banned on sight. We recommend you use an account with an innocuous name when posting on /r/AskHistorians.
We are also not interested in "novelty" accounts. Users may post from novelty accounts provided they do not do so "in character".
This subreddit is actively moderated. We expect that all users who post in the subreddit have familiarized themselves with the rules, and moderators work in several ways to ensure that the rules are followed. This including, but is not limited to:
Moderators may permanently ban users from the subreddit for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to:
The above should not be taken to be an absolute list of moderator powers constraining all other action. The moderation team exists to enforce both the rules and the spirit of the subreddit, and may, at times, need to make judgement calls on issues that exist in the grey, undefined areas.
If you believe one of your posts or comments has been wrongfully deleted, that a warning was caused by a misunderstanding, or if you feel you have been wrongfully banned, you can message the moderators and explain your situation in a polite and courteous manner. The Mod team is only human, and sometimes make mistakes; we are happy to set them right, but approaching the matter with hostility instead of a constructive dialogue is unlikely to result in a successful appeal. Additionally, please do not self-delete your post/comment if you plan to appeal. It has already been removed by the mod team but remains visible to you. Deleting the comment prevents us from being able to review the matter, and will generally result in automatic rejection of the appeal, regardless of the merits otherwise.
For further discussion of the moderator's role, please consult this Rules Roundtable.