Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Historical revisionism (political)
Historical revisionism is often a legitimate effort in which historians seek to broaden the awareness of certain historical events by re-examining conventional wisdom. However, historical revisionism can also take on a partisan tone.
Politically motivated historical revisionism
Although the term does encompass the general meaning as defined above and used in this Washington Post article "History In the Remaking Reagan's Story Doesn't End Here". It also has a more specific when it is used as label to describe view of qualified historians and self-taught historians who publish articles which deliberately misrepresent and manipulate historical evidence, an example of this secondary usage is reported in another Washington Post article Conservatives Celebrate Winning One for the Gipper:
- People for the American Way saw it in a different light: [...]
- Our primary concern is continued right-wing intimidation against the expressions of opposing points of view, whether attacks on dissent, intimidation of scientific researchers, or a demand for historical revisionism -- or historical cleansing -- regarding Ronald Reagan.
This second common usage has occurred because some historians who publish articles which deliberately misrepresent and manipulate historical evidence, have labelled themselves "historical revisionists" and this label has been used by others as a derogatory label to describe them when criticising their work. When David Irving, a self-taught historian, lost his British libel case againt Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books (for identifing him as a Holocaust denier, falsifier, and bigot)1, the trial judge Justice Charles Gray concluded that
- Irving has for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence; that for the same reasons he has portrayed Hitler in an unwarrantedly favourable light, principally in relation to his attitude towards and responsibility for the treatment of the Jews; that he is an active Holocaust denier; that he is anti-semitic and racist and that he associates with right wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism.
David Irving explicitly calls himself a "revisionist"2
During the time that the Germans have been revising their view of 20th century some people, who have sympathies with the Nazi agenda, have published popular histories which challenge the body of existing work used to support the generally accepted view of the period. They do this by downplaying the scale of the Holocaust and other Nazi war crimes while emphasising the suffering of the Axis populations at the hands of the Allies and stating or implying that the Allies committed war crimes as well. It is sometimes hard for a non-historian to distinguish between an book published by a historian which is considered to be an acceptable academic work by fellow professional historians and a work which although popular is not. For example it was not until Irving lost his libel suit against Lipstadt and that he "deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence", that the general public realised that his books were anything but works which were broadly in the canon of acceptable academic histories.
Because of the adoption of the term by Holocaust deniers of historical revisionism the term has become stigmatized, and revisionist a suspect description of a historical work dealing with the Nazi period. Holocaust revisionists insist that they are correcting falsehood, and that their publications represent authentic historical research.
Accuracy and revision are central to historical review. Historians who uncover new facts are sometimes unfairly accused of revisionism when the new facts upset long-held beliefs, but revision based on fresh evidence is not revisionism. The difference is that revisionists rewrite history to support their own goals, using any number of techniques to obtain their results. Among them are:
- The selective use of facts.
- The denial or derision of known facts.
- The assumption of unproven facts.
- The fabrication of facts.
- The obfuscation of facts.
- The use of attractive or neutral euphemisms to disguise unpleasant facts concerning their own positions.
- The use of unpleasant euphemisms to describe opposing facts.
- Constant attack against those disputing their views.
Examples of revisionist history
This theory says Egyptians were racially black and thus white European culture owes its accomplishments to Africa.
Because of the adoption of the term by holocaust-deniers, historical revisionism has become stigmatized, and revisionist a suspect description of a historical work dealing with the holocaust. Holocaust revisionists insist that they are correcting falsehood, and that their publications represent authentic historical research.
Holocaust-deniers have attached themselves to the issue of the Heimatvertriebenen, and have in the view of their opposition attempted to use the sympathy for the plight of those Germans who suffered to blame the Jews for the suffering of the Heimatvertriebenen, or to retroactively minimise the suffering of the Holocaust.
There is opinion that Zionists have used the Holocaust in an effort to drum up support for their positions, and as cover for questionable activities by the state of Israel. This issue is discussed in the controversial book, The Holocaust Industry.
Negationism is the denial of historic crimes.
See also Winston Smith.
Jack Chick's Nazi inquisition theory
Jack Chick, a well known and controversial Christian evangelist, and outspoken critic of Catholicism, considers the Nazi Holocaust to have been an inquisition undertaken by Hitler (a Catholic) against the Jews at the behest of the Pope.
Soviet and Communist history
During the era of the Soviet Union, dictator Joseph Stalin's regime employed a variety of revisionist tactics to ignore unpleasant events of the past. Soviet school books would constantly be revised to remove photographs and articles that dealt with politicians who had fallen out of favor with the regime. History was frequently re-written, with past events modified so they always portrayed Stalin's government favourably.
According to John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr , writing in their book In Denial: Historians, Communism & Espionage, many academic studies in the field of Soviet and Communist studies, especially in the area of History of the Soviet Union and regarding the history of the Communist Party USA by the so-called "Revisionist School" have generally taken a benign view of the Party while minimizing Soviet atrocities and the totalitarian nature of the movement. Haynes and Klehr attribute the biased stance of these historians, many of whom entered academia during the Vietnam War era, to anti-American and anti-capitalist sentiments.
There is a "politically correct" movement in revisionism that can often be found in history materials targeted towards children and young adults. This type of revisionism effectively seeks to censor some of the less pleasant sides of history, lest it should cause controversy or hurt feelings. For example, in some American schools the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. are not presented in their entirety, as King, who was black, frequently used racial terms such as negro, now considered offensive.
Slander Or Promotion
Revisionist history is also used to promote or slander persons, or promote or discredit an idea — for example, bringing evidence that Abraham Lincoln was homosexual, or that Winston Churchill was a Communist sympathizer. This backfires as often as it succeeds.
The term "revisionism" is also sometimes used to refer to specific revisionist theories, the most famous believer of which may be the chess player Garry Kasparov, which hold that the events of what are known as the last 3,000 years occurred in either a much shorter or a much longer time frame. This theory is called the New Chronology.
Heribert Illig believes the approximately 300 years between 614 and 911 are an invention and never happened. The basis of Illig's claims is the paucity of archaeological evidence that can be securely dated to this period known commonly as the "Dark Ages".
- John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, In Denial : Historians, Communism, and Espionage, Encounter Books, September, 2003, hardcover, 312 pages, ISBN 1893554724
- Revisionist History - a satrical look at historical revisionism
- Untruth in the Classroom, 1994
- Why "revisionism" isn't
- Mad Revisionist: A parody site on historical revisionism
- Gary Kasparov
- "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory" by Deborah E. Lipstadt. ISBN 0452272742
- "Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial" pp.145, by Richard J. Evans, 2001. The author is a Professor of Modern History, at University of Cambridge and he was a major expert witness at the trial, and this book presents both his view of the trial, and much of his expert witness report, including his research on the Dresden death count. ISBN 0465021530
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