Historical Revisionism and Denial

Feb 2019
699
Serbia
#1
Historical revisionism and re-writing of history is something I've always found a bit odd. I've seen countless instances of it in forms of writing, documentaries, lectures etc. but there are some things about it that bug me.

We've heard the phrase ''history is written by the victors'' but more often than not I've seen that history is written by the losers. Countries that lost wars or suffered humiliation often produce historical records were they try to explain away or reduce the significance of their failure and paint their enemies as evil and aggressive as is the case with let's say Holocaust deniers or apologists for the Axis.

Then there are cases of ethnic nationalism mixing with history were people from certain countries will make their ethnicity or country seem more significant than they were and in some cases straight up forge ''evidence'' and stretch sources to produce something that is more fiction than fact to satisfy some nationalistic complex or something else.

Finally I'm often shocked at how people easily believe things like these. I've often had someone tell me to look at some ''hidden history'' or ''never before published evidence'' which turns out to be a stretched and re-written piece of this revisionism. I think that it's the case of people selectively ''believing what they want to believe'' and many would struggle to accept that their country did something wrong in history or that they suffered defeats. Sadly some of this nationalism leaks into the education system sometimes and I've seen cases of textbooks containing writing like this.


I'm asking what the people here think of revisionism, why people believe it so easily and spread it around and what can be done to combat it. Finally there are cases were some uneducated or uninterested people might struggle to differentiate between revisionism and fact, leading to a danger that revisionism might become an ''accepted'' view of history, while this has and probably will always exist I want to know people's opinions.
 
Feb 2018
214
US
#2
It sounds like you are referring to just bad history, not revisionism. Often total crackpot theories will get lumped under the broad umbrella of revisionism, which is just a labeling issue. Or you might be referring to authors like Niall Ferguson, who make outlandish arguments for publicity or debate, but probably aren’t fully believed by the author itself.

Revisionist theories that gain significant traction usually occur because the original interpretations they argue against were significantly flawed.

I’ll give two examples: in the decades after world war 2 the maginot line was scapegoated as a stupid failure and a key reason for French defeat. Since then more accurate interpretations have come about that give a much more nuanced view: it was useful but French strategies were poor. The French were not overrun because they were infected with a passive stance, they were actually quite aggressive in certain ways.

The perspective on the mongols has also been completely overturned in the last 25 years, since the old one was based on insufficient source analysis and half baked conclusions trying to fit preconceived notions. There’s plenty of other examples of legit changes in narrative.

That isn’t to say the most modern interpretation is going to always be right, especially given the political and ideological biases in most academics today; but There were likely good reasons.
 
Jun 2013
495
Connecticut
#3
Revisionism in history is good. It's the lifeblood of history. But naturally it has to be done according to rigid methods of historical criticism. The prime mover of correct revision is the discovery of new historical data. Under a competent historian this data gets assimilated into a narrative tht can or cannot change perspective.

Writing history without incorporating all pertinent data to propigate a view
 
Likes: Futurist

M9Powell

Ad Honorem
Oct 2014
4,439
appalacian Mtns
#4
I find the recent trend too make the Roman & Anglo-Saxon conquests of Britain into politically correct bloodless conquests particularly offensive. The past is bloody.
 

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,109
Republika Srpska
#5
People believe revisionism because, most of the time, revisionism is connected to nationalism. Therefore, it is used to restore pride of a defeated nations or to restore the good image of the nation. Everyone always wants to be the victim, not the aggressor.
 
May 2011
13,943
Navan, Ireland
#6
.................................................................

We've heard the phrase ''history is written by the victors'' but more often than not I've seen that history is written by the losers. Countries that lost wars or suffered humiliation often produce historical records were they try to explain away or reduce the significance of their failure and paint their enemies as evil and aggressive as is the case with let's say Holocaust deniers or apologists for the Axis..
While I don't disagree with your point we also have to remember that historical events can be seen from different perspectives by different nationalities and groups.


.......................I'm asking what the people here think of revisionism, why people believe it so easily and spread it around and what can be done to combat it. Finally there are cases were some uneducated or uninterested people might struggle to differentiate between revisionism and fact, leading to a danger that revisionism might become an ''accepted'' view of history, while this has and probably will always exist I want to know people's opinions .
There is nothing wrong with revisionism as such, in fact its good to question interpretations and challenge them.

For instance I was brought up with the 'Black Adder' school of history-- senseless slaughter, incompetent and uncaring officers at all levels and poor down trodden Tommies etc but that probably owes as much to the 1960' and 70's as it does actually WWI.

Most modern books have a better view and I have certainly changed my views on the war.

Seen the film Battle of Britain? its very good but its view on the course of the battle is very much from the 1960's modern interpretations are very different from those shown in the film.

Now we do have a 'problem' with 'popular history' (nothing new there) and history being put forward to fit a political (often nationalist - often not) agenda and with modern social media it can spread much more quickly.

Not sure you can do anything about it --- become a history teacher? go on places like this? --- I certainly wouldn't be in favour of pushing 'official' approved history.
 
Mar 2013
1,441
Escandinavia y Mesopotamia
#7
My former professor who taught us scientific theory and source criticism at university once stated something like this in the class: “If you don't follow good academic practice and rely uncritically on secondary sources from person like David Irving among other, then you would be told that you should quit here and working with cleaning the public toilets instead.”


And as stated in an earlier post by myself with some few moderation:

"I don't have anything against revisionism just as it is built on well-conducted scientific methods. The profession of history is filled with revisionism where outdated information/books are replaced by new scholarships acquired through modern research facilities. That happens almost constantly.

However there is revisionism that is not convincing as they are not backed up by good scientific conduction. Like for instance holocaust denial, global warming skepticism or the creationism."
 
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Likes: Gvelion
Feb 2019
699
Serbia
#8
Perhaps I worded my post poorly. By revisionism I meant the bad kind, such as Holocaust denial or claims by pseudo-historians such as Jovan Deretić who like to abuse history and produce outlandish claims which are easy to disprove.

Historical review and critical thinking is something that any educated and good historian should do for obvious reasons and an example that I'm familiar with is the history of the naval Napoleonic Wars after Trafalgar. For a long time it was thought in both the public eye and in the opinion of some scholars that Trafalgar ended major naval combat and that the naval war calmed down as the period after Trafalgar wasn't covered much especially in places like the Indian Ocean or the Adriatic. However the idea that the naval theatre calmed down after Trafalgar or that the French navy was crippled for good was in time disproven and it became clear that this narrative is wrong.

This type of revisionism is necessary and I believe that there never can be a ''correct'' view of history but things like Holocaust denial or ''crackpot'' ideas are unnecessary, insufficient in evidence and it gets annoying when someone tells me that my view is wrong or that I've been told lies all my life and when I ask how and why I'm wrong I'm pointed to something like David Irving or Victor Suvorov. All points of view and opinions should be considered, otherwise we wouldn't make many new discoveries but in cases like these it is just annoying.
 

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