presentism
n. The application of current ideals, morals, and standards to historical figures and events.

Example Citation:
"In the midst of this millennial miasma, another word has come along to stir up historians: presentism. 'It's when a historian sees events in the past through the prism of present-day standards,' the lawyer-historian [Annette Gordon-Reed] tells me. 'For example, Thomas Jefferson is often judged harshly as a sexist even though the notion of complete equality between the sexes was almost unthinkable in his era.' Gordon-Reed calls it the 'why wasn't Jefferson like Alan Alda' question."
—William Safire, "Hair-Raising Fund-Raising," The New York Times Magazine

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