November 9, 2020 at 10:42 am #197194BloodyRubbishIronParticipantOffline
Registered On: September 7, 2015
When the statue of Colston was toppled there was a lot of talk about the need to preserve history, warts and all.
Many of the same people (and I don’t mean all, because I am aware TwoWrights brought it up on here, and I don’t think he is part of the the group I am about to criticise) are now up in arms about the National Trust presenting history as it was for educational purposes:
Letter to the Telegraph from 28 Tories about the National Trust and its colonialism report: “History must neither be sanitised nor rewritten to suit snowflake preoccupations. A clique of powerful privilege liberals must not be allowed to rewrite a history in their image.” pic.twitter.com/pcJpo4nnBI
— Christopher Hope📝 (@christopherhope) November 9, 2020
Like it or not, those involved with colonial expansion and slavery were compensated, Churchill was a man in favour of the Empire, Nelson did marry into a slave owning family.
From what I understand, the National Trust are presenting everything, they’re not ignoring that Churchill is a totem for rising against fascism, nor Nelson was a great general who helped in defeating Napoleon’s France. Which is what it should be. History isn’t about basking in the greatness of national icons, hushing up the more controversial aspects.
If you don’t value historical documentation in its neutrality and just want a sanitised version of history presented, it is clear that you don’t value the preservation of history, as was claimed when many of the same people wanted statues preserved for this purpose.November 9, 2020 at 12:11 pm #197201Iron-aweParticipantOffline
Registered On: June 21, 2017
Spot on BRI, history warts and all is how it should be written, both sides of the story told and the results of such laid bare for all to see and discuss. Never had a problem with the truth just the various versions of it we are asked to swallow and not the full version.November 9, 2020 at 10:28 pm #197227NorthumbironParticipantOffline
Registered On: January 3, 2014
As I wrote on another post I’ve a fair bit of previous on the subject having done a post graduate diploma in history at Oxford University.
It amazes me that some folks still look upon history as facts that you read in a book. The quicker you get that idea out of your head the better. Likewise the notion that you can teach history.
History is not just something that happened in the past. What is happening today will be history tomorrow. And unless you have a time machine you can’t alter it. We lost to Solihull Moors yesterday. That is now part of the history of Scunthorpe United Football Club.
You have to start from a primary source. A good example would be a Parish Register containing the names of individuals baptised, married or buried in the church. Primary sources are generally 90 – 100% accurate because they were legal documents. Most errors are because of misspelled names. However a written history of that Parish would be a secondary source because it has been put together by someone who lived at a particular time and who may or may not have had access to documentary evidence.
Take the events of the last week across the pond. A Democrat history of the 2020 POTUS election would be very different to a Republican history, which in turn would be different to Donald J Trump’s autobiography (if he were literate enough to be able to write one!).
All history is written with a bias. This is why primary sources are invaluable and secondary/tertiary sources should be viewed with scepticism and caution. On the whole museum collections and displays try to present primary sources without any bias in its interpretation.
As for the preservation of history, it is probably better to look at this from the opposite viewpoint. That of the destruction of secondary sources. Like many others I’ve stood in the Bebelplatz in Berlin where in 1933 Nazi supporters burned an estimated 25,000 books. This was nothing new of course. The Papacy had been doing it for centuries.
Which brings us neatly on to iconoclasm. The destruction of statuary and imagery. Once again it’s nothing new, it’s been going on since antiquity. So when Colston’s statue was toppled in Bristol earlier this year it was just suffering the same fate as the Colossus of Nero in Rome, Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin, Saddam Hussain’s statue in Baghdad and hundreds of Catholic Churches “cleansed” by the Puritans. I recently came across an academic paper on an equestrian statue of James II that stood on the quayside in Newcastle. It was pulled down by a gang of apprentices and thrown into the Tyneside at the time of the Glorious Revolution. Sound familiar?
The argument I would offer is that these actions are not destroying history but making it, and in themselves become primary sources providing us with valuable information on the thoughts of a particular group at a fixed point in history. Had these physical acts of demonstration not happened all we would have is written documentation to inform us of the perpetrators feelings. Secondary sources, written with a biased view (even if this is unintentional) which we know to be flawed.
History teaching nowadays tends to direct students towards primary sources and allow them to do the analysis for themselves. As such it is important that primary sources are made available to all without censorship or pre-selection (genealogy websites please take note).
The censorship of what was and was not displayed in a museum undoubtedly went on throughout the 19th & 20th centuries. “We just want to see the good stuff!”
Thankfully we have moved away from this now. I think the future is fairly bright.November 10, 2020 at 9:53 am #197232BloodyRubbishIronParticipantOffline
Registered On: September 7, 2015
I agree, Those who complain about rewriting of history do not understand that history is an ever evolving subject due to the reasons you outlie. We still learn more from history as new archaeological findings are unearthed and political changes make it permissible to re-evaluate the past. For instance, in Russia Stalin is still revered as a great man. We know he wasn’t, but history according to the Russians paints him in that light because he stood against fascism (when he could no longer deny it and could no longer delude himself into thinking war with Germany wasn’t inevitable. Even after they invaded he thought diplomacy could be achieved in the early stages). Those who whine about changing history to be more accommodative of the negative aspects wouldn’t be so outraged at Russians reassessing Stalin’s role as a national hero, surely?
If it’d be ok for them, why not for us? And the fact that Russia should surely reassess Stalin’s portrayal as a national hero for many should give a clue that reassessing history isn’t some cardinal sin against the discipline’s merit.
Yes, there are those on the left who would sanitise history for their own agenda, but this isn’t it. The NT are just honestly assessing the history. The left wing wouldn’t have an argument to stand on regarding the UK ignoring its history if the government and its supporters didn’t get outraged at attempts to not ignore it. Then the right may be in a better position to point out left wing overreach on historical interpretations.
The argument I would offer is that these actions are not destroying history but making it, and in themselves become primary sources providing us with valuable information on the thoughts of a particular group at a fixed point in history.
This is a good point. I bet the toppling brought more attention to Colston as a historical figure than preservation of it ever did, despite its existence apparently being in need for memory. While the statue may no longer exist, information in museums, books and the internet still do, and shouldn’t go, so the argument for the need for statues over this falls on its face in my opinion.November 11, 2020 at 2:18 pm #197340GurnelistaParticipantOffline
Registered On: April 2, 2014
Some good comments above on recent events.
A Democrat history would certainly differ from a Republican one or Trump’s own. Just as a recent history of SUFC would differ according to who wrote it. We can usually agree on the facts – the matches played, won, drawn lost, goals scored and conceded.
But the really interesting stuff of history are the ‘how’, ‘why’ and ‘what’ questions – why did we lose so many games – what were the reasons, the contributory factors, etc. Was it the manager’s bad team selection, bad tactics? Was it an interfering chairman, a lack of cash, player rebellion, bad luck with injuries and cards, etc. etc?
My explanation may differ from someone else’s, but we might judge which is most persuasive by looking at the line of argument, the strength of my evidence, who I spoke to (my ‘witnesses’) and what they had to say about that period, all of which which led me to my conclusion that the club’s plight was down to the chairman.
Having said that, a history of the club written in 100 years time might well look back on the period and judge Prawn less harshly, arguing he was right to be fully involved and careful with his cash in such a precarious time when clubs were faltering and almost going under, due to an economic crisis and global pandemic.
Back to the OP, that letter is a classic ‘you need us to protect you from those evil Marxists’. And the comments of Stowell reflect the interests of her boss… the boss of Culture, Media and Sport (was Matt Hancock, now Dowden).
It’s an example of how the current government is seeking to assert itself much as Thatcher did with Thatcherism – i.e. not limit their influence to politics and economics, but extend it into every area of public life – in this case how we should regard our own history, how we should deny the evidence of our own eyes and ears. What’s the word for that, hegemony or summat?
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