The Politics of History in Comparative Perspective
- Martin O. heisler - University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA
As collective history becomes more tightly bound with personal narratives, the lines between history, memory, and commemoration have blurred. When history is inconvenient to a specific group, it is often compromised – watered down for public consumption. The articles in this special collection of The ANNALS examine what happens when scholars concentrate on an unsavory part of a collective history.
Across the globe, the past gets politicized – used and misused. The articles in this volume focus on the political dynamics of confronting the publication of disagreeable findings about collective pasts. Most contributions cover a specific country or regional study where historical records are at odds with the collective story that has been embraced. The details of these highlighted conflicts vary, yet readers will notice striking similarities in the ways that contentious facts are handled by the collective society:
Substantial delays in confronting an unpalatable aspect of the past
Challenges to the motives, integrity, or loyalty of the messengers
Attempts to quarantine information that is damaging to the established histories
Taken together, this collection of articles explicate and analyze the myriad of ways that history has been politicized. Focusing on the tensions between differing conceptions of related histories and what happens when the self-concepts of two groups collide in the same narrative space, this provocative volume of The ANNALS raises many important questions.
Researchers, students, and policy makers will find these articles, which challenge many accepted historical scripts, offer important insight into the way that politics have shaped history and will encourage new research and inspire further revision and ongoing reframing.