“History is always about context, not imposing our own moral values on the past.” Zareer Masani
If one thing has begun to characterise the ideological conflict we we are going through in the current period it's censorship. More to the point it's becoming self-censorship and conforming to the latest demands of the new ideologues who make unchangeable statements and demands. Each of their latest pronunciations is not open for debate. Their views are not to be challenged.
The most obvious area that this development has taken place is seen by the rise of trans-ideology which refuses to knowledge even the most minor criticism. Either you are with them or you are the enemy. The TERF, the bigot and face on-line denunciation and cancellation in the style of Mao's Red Guard.
However the problem does not stop there. In The Spectator Robert Tombs writes an essay that compares the modern notion of "wokeness" to that of Marxist determinism.
A group of noted historians have begun to fight back against the politically motivated desire to rewrite history to fit the new ideology. Hardly new, The Nazi's and Communists both did so to suit their aims and burned books and hunted down dissidents and elements that would not conform.
A new website History Reclaimed has been established by these historians with the following mission statement:The abuse of history for political purposes is as old as history itself. In recent years, we have seen campaigns to rewrite the histories of Western democracies so as to undermine their solidarity as communities, their sense of achievement, even their basic legitimacy. There have been calls to abolish national days in Canada and Australia, and both countries have been accused of being founded on genocide. Slavery—despite being almost universal until the early 19th century—is cast as the original sin of Britain and the United States, supposedly shaping their societies and creating their prosperity. Figures central to their histories are stigmatised as racists or for having connections, however distant, with slavery. Calls for massive reparations are being heard.
These ‘culture wars’ seem to be aimed squarely at demoralizing Western countries. They are being pursued in the media, in public spaces, in museums, universities, schools, civil services, local government, business corporations and even churches. Whether to ward off criticism or to gain advantage, institutions have rushed to embrace the most negative interpretations of their own countries’ histories.
Activists sometimes assert that ‘facing up’ to a past they present as overwhelmingly and permanently shameful is the path to a better and more ‘inclusive’ future. But the real effect—perhaps the true aim—of their actions is nihilistic destruction. Tendentious and even blatantly false readings of history are creating divisions, resentments, and even violence. This is damaging to democracy and to a free society.
Free societies depend on popular participation, trust and solidarity. They need a sense of common purpose and self-worth. A shared history is a necessary foundation for a successful democracy.
We do not take the view that our histories are uniformly praiseworthy—that would be absurd. But we reject as equally absurd the corrosive claim that they are essentially shameful. We agree that history consists of many opinions and many voices. But this does not mean that all opinions are valid, and certainly none should be imposed as a new orthodoxy.
We are an independent group of scholars from seven countries and several ethnicities with a wide range of opinions on many subjects, but with the shared conviction that history requires careful interpretation of complex evidence, and should not be a vehicle for facile propaganda. We intend to provide context, explanation and balance in a debate in which condemnation is too often preferred to understanding.
We aim to inform and support individuals and institutions who feel uncertain in the face of the culture wars. We have begun by bringing together on this website a wealth of writing on contested issues in history, and we will continue to produce a stream of new writing which will both set the agenda for historical debate, and call out fake history.