Friday, October 17, 2008

Free History!

Via Ralph Luker, I note a new effort to clarify the liberating role of history, and the importance, conversely, of liberating history from legislated truths. The new appeal says, in part [emphasis added]:
History must not be a slave to contemporary politics nor can it be written on the command of competing memories. In a free state, no political authority has the right to define historical truth and to restrain the freedom of the historian with the threat of penal sanctions.
We ask government authorities to recognize that, while they are responsible for the maintenance of the collective memory, they must not establish, by law and for the past, an official truth whose legal application can carry serious consequences for the profession of history and for intellectual liberty in general.
In a democracy, liberty for history is liberty for all.

I would add, in the list of dangers to history from state attention, the creation of national curriculums of such detail and narrow conception as to force primary and secondary school history into memorization exercises, stripping them of the inquisitive and argumentative joy that real history offers.

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