Letters to the Lincolnshire Free Press editor: March 9, 2021
Put into context and enhanced
Not only is Andrew Livsey’s definition of history different from that of Nigel Duce (Free Press letters, February 23) it also differs substantially from that in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. I quote: “Learning or knowing by enquiry, a narration of incidents, the continuous methodical record of important or public events.”
We can probably (though not necessarily) believe that certain historical events took place, but the account of these events will depend on which facts relating to them have been selected by the narrator, and by his/her interpretation and understanding of them.
This will in turn have been influenced by the social circumstances of the time.
As later research throws up more information, other historians may be led to totally different but equally valid interpretations of the same events.
It is quite impossible for history to be ‘fixed facts’ when the pool of knowledge is increasing.
There was a time when history reflected only the views of middle class white men.
Then women and people of other racial backgrounds
became involved, and interest grew in the previously
neglected lives and opinions of the poor, of women and of
Inevitably this has brought to light injustices and inequalities.
There are aspects of our history of which we can be proud and there are other aspects of which we should now be ashamed; our nation is not exceptional or uniquely moral, but human.
Those in secure positions in society are often made anxious when those less-privileged point out injustices and demand change.
They fear any change to the status quo and prefer to deny there is a problem.
We have to decide what sort of a country we wish to be. Are we a mature democracy able to discuss and learn from the exposure of present and past inequalities and injustices? Or would we rather emulate an insecure authoritarian regime and suppress unwelcome truths?
History is not being rewritten; it is being enhanced. People and events have not been cancelled; they have been put in context. By its very nature, history has to be an evolving process which is constantly being enriched by new ideas and discoveries.
If we only have the confidence to recognise and learn from our past mistakes, society must benefit from this.