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Wikipedia:History standards

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This page has been put up to resolve a number of issues which occur with great frequency when writing articles about history for Wikipedia. As usual with Wikipedia please extend and expand these brief outlines as you uncover them.

Note: A new, comprehensive standard is listed below, based on what is already here and some necessary updates.


Use the form most familiar to English speakers (usually English-language)as the FIRST citation of terms
Since this is English-language wikipedia we should strive to use the English term when there is one. E.g., "Amber road (Bernsteinstrasse)".

Supporters include: MichaelTinkler, Christian, sjc, JHK, Derek Ross, salt28, David Parker (with reservation, below), Ed Poor (except East Asian names as described below)

Opponents include:

Mixed opinion: Taw (Miyazaki Hayao looks better as-is, with Japanese names of his movies first), and clasqm who broadly agrees with the proviso that we include the native-language term where we reasonably can, also some people's names do not translate (eg Ludwig van Beethoven does not become Louis ...)

I think that the titles of works of art do have a claim to be represented in their original form, probably even as their initial representation. MichaelTinkler
Ditto, perhaps a very sensible exception here. sjc
To my mind, there's no problem with using the native-language term, if that's the commonest one used in English: Ludwig van B. is never called anything else.
Books, too, perhaps, where there isn't an English edition: I don't think Beethoven's a problem - obviously we'll use the original form of most modern personal names, whatever language they're from, even where they contain a geographical element - just think Leonard of Vinci - though it's difficult to pinpoint where in the evolution of surnames "of Bruges" should become "van Brugge". Where it's a genuine title, that's a different matter (though with some noble houses the name and the "of" title are going to be the same, the title will take precedence anyhow). David Parker
Another case is the name of Roman Catholic documents such as decrees and encyclicals where the customary usage is the Latin, not the translation (which should be included in an article about the document itself. ClaudeMuncey

salt28 would like to point out the obvious, that most 'opponents' are actually supporters when you read the statement, specifically 'most familiar to English speakers (usually English-language)' June 22, 2002.


Names of kings and queens should include their kingdom

E.g.: Alphonso XII of Spain

As most monarchical history likely to fetch up in Wikipedia will deal with the English monarchy, and for reasons of concision, kings and queens of England do not require a qualification of nationality; otherwise, the reference should state the nationality of which they were monarch, unless:

they are completely unique (e.g. they are someone like Vlad Tepes)
(other exceptions)
In the case of Holy Roman Emperors, it should be e.g. Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor.
In the case of the kings of France, it should be e.g. Henry I of France or, to add a common nickname, Philip IV of France, the Fair.

Supporters include: sjc, David Parker (except I'd include "of England")

Opponents include:

Those with mixed opinions include: MichaelTinkler, who sees no reason to privilege the monarchs of England (Christian and David Parker agrees), since the names are in their language anyway. JHK, who thinks the cognomens might should be part of the link itself...
salt28 thinks maybe one day, say 2054, people won't automatically think we're talking about England. Nor would aliens who find a CD containing wikipedia in the year 10,000 after humanity has destroyed itself think that.It would be nice if we tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God. June 22, 2002.
Vicki Rosenzweig because it's not even true that English monarchs are mostly likely to end up in here; we already have lots of German nobility, for example. It's a lot easier to put the longer form (Edward II of England) to start with than have to go back later if it turns out some other country also had two or more kings named Edward.
user:Ktsquare: All English monarchs should include ("of England"). As far as I know, Portugal has a King Edward, Greece has both George I and II. However, if one prefers using native languages, the Portugese case becomes King Duarte. No ambiguity would surface, in which case "of England" is not necessary for Edward Longshanks. IMO this issue and the "Use the form most familiar to English speakers" issue should be pulled together into a grand standard, i.e.

  • If there exists a posthumous naming of a sovereign, like Charles the Fat, Edward Longshanks or Olof Skotkonung etc., use that for the main page of info about the person. All pages of Edward I, Charles III and Olof IV and the names with "of (country name)" should direct links to it. All posthumous names, IMO, were used for distinguishing a monarch from other by his or her action during his reign. No one would be so "imaginative" enough to create an exactly same posthumous name for 2 or more sovereigns having the same first name. Even if the names are in foreign languages, it is better to include them since the numbering may not be so clear-cut.
e.g. Olof Skotkonung means Olof the "Tax King". My suggestion is using Skotkonung since 1) the "Tax king" is not used widely by historians. 2) This Olof may not be the fourth.
  • If no posthumous name survived, use "of country" standard.

Addition to the "of country" standard

Let's keep the "of country" standard -- wherever applicable. As much as I prefer to see, e.g., Philip the Fair (of France), it makes more sense to keep him Philip IV of France. That said, sometimes we DO use cognomens most often -- for example, Charles the Bald doesn't usually get a number, neither does Charlemagne or Louis the Pious -- or Ethelred the Unread(y). Strongly suggest doing background research before creating pages with titles that just don't work -- one of the basic 'pedia standards. Basically, use the most familiar name, if the ordinal and "of country" doesn't work

  • Opponents include:

see also Royal and noble styles


JHK suggests,

Names of titled, landed peers should read x (full name), (possible) ordinal of Title

So Arthur Wellesley (sp?), 1st Duke of Wellington

They absolutely SHOULD NOT be the first and middle names, no last name, no title -- which is being used far too often!

supporters include: MichaelTinkler, rbrwr (in the UK context, at least, and where there's no absolutely compelling reason to use the "common name" as with Bertrand Russell)

opponents include:

Unsure about the ordinal: David Parker (are they general? I don't recall seeing any in a non-UK context, but I probably haven't been looking)


When making entry on battle or war, list it in List of battles or War and put standard header

Supporters include: szopen

what is the standard header for battles or wars? Does it include dates for the war (eg Franco-Prussian War) Tarquin, Tuesday, June 18, 2002


When writing dates, use BCE and CE (Christian Era) like the historians do, instead of BC and AD like the Christians do.

Supporters include: Ark (let's face it, there was no Christ!), Slrubenstein (I am sure that for many this would be their first encounter with "BCE" and "CE," but isn't this the whole point of an encyclopedia? To learn new things? Most contemporary historians I have read use this terminology. It only makes sanse -- if the calendar is now simply convention and has no religious significance, why use "before christ" and "in the year of our lord?")

Opponents include:

I'm not a christian, but I have no problem with BC and AD. The existing Wikipedia year pages use BC. BTW in the new politically correct system, CE is not Christian Era, but Common Era. Eclecticology, Tuesday, June 18, 2002

I just wanna mention that this is the first time I ever read that there is another way of notation. Do you think most people that come here will know what BCE and CE mean? I'll continue using BC and AD untill BCE and CE become standard in the English language.I doubt that will ever happen since it is so deeply implented, but if it does, I'll play along.Common spelling, not common era.salt28 June 22, 2002

Christian agrees with salt28 and thinks we should stick to the agreed upon Timeline standards

I can't get excited about it at all: BCE or BC, it's the same calendar. Anno Domini doesn't signify anything, since Dionysius Exiguus got the dates wrong. Christians don't seem to be clamouring to fix it. Any calendar will have an arbitrary base point. The idea of using proper integers, with negative numbes before a year zero has some appeal though, but would probably cause too much confusion and off-by-one errors to be worth bothering with here.

One nit I want to pick is that if people are going to use Anno Domini dating, put the abbreviation before the number of the year, not after. Formal English usage (which is what we are following whenever AD is used), is to state the date as follows, "In the Year of Our Lord 2002 . . ." -- hence AD 2002.

If you don't want to use AD, go ahead & put CE after the date. Or leave AD out entirely if it's clear from the context which era you're talking about. But if you use it, the correct usage is to put the abbreviation of the era before the year. -- llywrch 05:47 Nov 21, 2002 (UTC)

isn't this a violation of the policy of using what is most common and familiar? Vera Cruz


New Suggested Standards -- digest form

  1. Use the form most familiar to English speakers (usually English-language)as the FIRST citation of terms
  2. Names of kings and queens of modern kingdoms should include their kingdom This is to differntiate between many rulers with the same name and number. English rulers get "of England" added. No Cognomens (nicknames) in article titles -- they go in the first line of the article.

  3. Rulers of principalities, duchies, etc., are "So-and-so, ordinal (if appropriate) title of place People who have more than one title are listed under their highest title. NO FAMILY OR MIDDLE NAMES, except where English speakers normally use them. No Cognomens (nicknames) in article titles -- they go in the first line of the article.

  4. For kings of no-longer-existing countries, or of peoples, revert to rule one -- use the most common English name. For many rulers, we just don't use numbers, e.g., Alfred the Great, Charlemagne, Louis the Pious. For some rulers, the country is obvious -- Cleopatras are Egyptian, for example. An exception might be Macedon, because there are a bunch of Philips who could be confused with modern Philips.

  5. Roman Emperors just get their name. The first line of the article can say when (and which empire) they ruled. Otherwise, we get stuck with Roman Emperor, Western R. E., Eastern R.E, Byzantine E, and (under the Carolingians) Roman Emperor (again)

  6. Saints go by their most common English name, minus the "Saint"

  7. This is not a genealogy. Don't link back to people unless their entry includes more than their dates, parentage, spouse(s), and descendants. They need to have DONE something to deserve their own article!

Supporters include:JHK, Danny, maveric149 (except for #6: Toby is right "saint" is a natural disambiguator. However, I don't think there is a need to tack on saint to Paul of Tarsus becuase that title is both; widely used and already naturally disambiguated. But more ambiguous stuff like Stephen or Denis really do need to have some form of natural disambiguation).

Opponents include:

Those with mixed opinions include: Toby Bartels;

Toby Bartels' mixed opinion:

  1. I actually prefer "Bernsteinstrasse (Amber Road)". I realise that I'm pretty unusual in my strong preference for original language names. I'm not about to put up a fight on this one.
  2. Agree, but add (in nondigest version at least) that we encourage redirects from nicknames that are likely to be accidental links, and disambiguation pages for ambiguous names that are likely to be accidental links.
  3. Agree, if you move the comma to after the ordinal ^_^. And note that often (such as with Germans), the Christian name that we use here actually appears about a third of the way through a list of half a dozen.
  4. I'd like to stick to rule 2 as much as possible; we revert to rule 1 only when rule 2 just doesn't work. Thus England's Saxon Edwards follow rule 1, but her Saxon Edmunds follow rule 2 (as is done now, see List of British monarchs for links to all these guys).
  5. Fair enough; Rome's pretty significant.
  6. Disagree; the article title should definitely include "Saint", it's a natural disambiguator.
  7. What's "this"? I agree that we shouldn't write articles that don't say something interesting about a person, but I also think that everybody potentially deserves an article (except for the really old guys that historians simply don't have any information on), so we should include links to articles on them in pages about other people. Those articles just shouldn't be written unless they say something — as is true throughout the Wikipedia.

Eclecticology's mixed opinions.

  1. Usually English does not mean always English. I've always found Franz to be more common than Francis for the Austrian monarchs. Who would say Francis Haydn?
  2. Agree. On this basis those articles with "of the United Kingdom" should be changed to "of England". Simplicity should prevail over historical pedantry.
  3. Consistency would be nice. The English Royal family is chaotic. We have Charles Philip Arthur Windsor, Princess Margaret and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. With that going on who's to know what format applies he's looking for any royal.
  4. There's nothing wrong with continuing the "of country" approach right into ancient times. Ambiguous ancients can appear out of nowhere. Also many of the old names have strange spellings by modern standards; they might more easily be found on a search engine if the country is beside the name. Again we like to know right away where the monarch of an obscure place is from.
  5. I wouldn't be too hasty about leaving off references to Rome and its successors. e.g. the eastern empire had several Constantines (not to mention Constans and Constantius): modern Greece has also had a Constantine.
  6. Keep "Saint". It's part of the most common English language usage.
  7. Simply listing and linking parents, spouses, siblings and children is not doing genalogy. We can't know the limitations about a linked person until the article. Linking these people is tantamount to voting for them to be on the most wanted. If there's only a single link, the article has limited chance of ever being written.

Ktsquare's mixed opinions.

  1. Agree
  2. Agree
  3. As Eclecticology said, consistency is definitely needed. This rule need to be detailed further.
  4. Add something more (maybe the of country, of people etc.) to monarchs of non-existing countries. Some monarchs are pretty obvious where they are from but some aren't. Consistency needed to distinguish each one of them. BTW we want a unique title for a particular sovereign.
  5. Just add (so and so, Roman Emperor, Byzantine Emperor etc.) or this rule can be incorporated with rule 4. I.E. add Roman, Byzantine Emperor etc. if the we don't which individual sovereign is without these affixes.
  6. Definitely keep Saint. It's a natural disambuguator and added it in front of a personal name greatly increased chance of being found by search engines. If one tries to found Saint Andrew and not someone named Andrew on web, one would defdinitly add "Saint" in front.
  7. Well said by Eclecticology.

Jeronimo's (very) mixed opinions

  1. Emphasis on the "familiarity for English speakers", not for English-language (Eclecticology's point).
  2. Why make an exception for the ancient kingdoms? Later, several of the current kings/queens may also get nicknames. So will we move the article to there then? And what are modern kingdoms? Kingdoms that still exist? England still exists. Or do we start from 1xxx? With the naming convention for cities, the emphasis was on consistency. Why not keep things consistent here as well?
  3. Agree.
  4. See above.
  5. See above.
  6. As many saints will share (anglicised) names with kings, (f.e. George), the Saint should be included. Question is whether to make it St. George[?] or Saint George.
  7. See Toby Bartels and Eclecticology's remarks.


Vicki Rosenzweig's mixed opinion/footnote: as has been noted, there are often several saints with the same names. Furthermore, there is a common Christian practice of giving children, including those likely to grow up to be monarchs, saint's names. There are at least two saints Louis, for example, one of whom was also king of France--does he get "Saint Louis IX of France"?

I don't think that this has shown up anywhere on this page (or its talk), so let me say this here: I've come to agree with Julie that "Saint" should be left out of the title, when there is some other natural disambiguator, such as "IX of France", "the Evangelist", or a surname. I only want to keep "Saint" for people that are always identified as such because there is no other identifier, such as Saint Stephen (which currently redirects to Stephen!). Nobody calls him "that Stephen guy that got stoned in Acts", nor do they call him just "Stephen" in a generic context, but everyboyd calls him "Saint Stephen", including atheists like me. — Toby 03:59 Aug 9, 2002 (PDT)


See also: Dubious historical resources Wikipedia:Timeline standards Can history be truly NPOV?



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