Jump to content

Using Wikileaks


Recommended Posts


Just curious.  I am slowly revamping an undergrad thesis I wrote about the Carter administration's human rights policies towards Iran.  I have located about 20 documents that basically align with my original thesis, but provide much more detail and a more interesting narrative.  The problem is that they are located on the Wikileaks web-site.  Has academia turned against Wikileaks, or are historians allowed to use such primary sources?  


Link to comment
Share on other sites


As a historian, I would say that using documents from Wikileaks as primary sources is a part of your prerogative. Evaluate the source just as you would any other primary source, but pay special attention to credibility. In your opinion, is the archive of documents from Wikileaks that this document is a part of real? Or was it manufactured and leaked to Wikileaks as part of a disinformation campaign? No matter your answer to that question, you still have a primary source... But you will use a discredited source in a different way.

I haven't seen any historians write on using Wikileaks sources, but there are some scholarly articles on Wikileaks as journalism and boundary policing on the part of newspapers and such. Search jstor or ebsco for Wikileaks and journalism and they are bound to appear. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd be really skeptical.  Try to trace back to the original place of those documents-- where are they currently held in hard-copy?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I posed this question to my class today as I was talking to them about the sources they will need for their final paper.

As you analyze your sources, questions of veracity and provenance have to be asked. Considering the originals are classified and unavailable to researchers, the historian has to ask if they believe these sources are fake, edited originals, or totally true. Use a hermeneutic of suspicion, for sure. But you can still use them and be skeptical. We use Denmark Vesey's so-called confession written by a lawyer who questioned him as a primary source, and it's highly questionable, but still enlightening, so why not Wikileaks? The only reason I see for saying no way is ideology...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use