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Why Litigation-Driven History Matters: Lessons Learned from the Secret History of TCE

Keith A. Zahniser
The Public Historian
Vol. 37, No. 1 (February 2015), pp. 46-53
DOI: 10.1525/tph.2015.37.1.46
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/tph.2015.37.1.46
Page Count: 8
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Why Litigation-Driven History Matters
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Abstract

Litigation drives extensive historical research but often allows only select observers to see the results. Historians have conducted untold studies for litigation that become “secret histories” because these histories are not published. An example is the historical use and regulation of the chemical trichloroethylene (TCE), a hazardous chemical at issue in much environmental litigation, but a topic virtually absent in the secondary literature. This practice seems to contravene accepted standards of open scholarship. Although not directly aligned with the traditional academic model of historical practice, however, historical research and writing for litigation achieve legitimate and important results without abandoning the discipline’s professional standards. History done by consultants for litigation is neither a history of compromised standards nor as “secret” as feared.

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