The sun may never set on British misconceptions about our empire

But then what could our teachers have said? Empire was an uncomfortable subject. By the 1950s, an approach that stressed glorious conquest and the benefits of British rule was no longer tenable, and not only for moral reasons. What had been bloodily won was now being lost, usually peacefully but sometimes not, no matter that we would all be friends in the equitable-sounding Commonwealth. National decline would have been an unhappy theme in the classroom. Rather than this awkward mixture of past and present – one that might intimately involve us – it was safer to concentrate on the sufferings of the Paris commune.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/06/british-misconceptions-empire-guilty-colonialism?CMP=share_btn_fb

How science and First Nations oral tradition are converging

The researchers also found that roughly 175 years ago, the population of Coast Tsimshian in the region declined by as much as 57 per cent. This coincides with colonization and the spread of diseases such as smallpox, the accounts of which have also been passed down in First Nations oral tradition.

“Science is starting to be used to basically corroborate what we’ve been saying all along,” said Barbara Petzelt, an archaeologist with the Metlakatla First Nation, one of the researchers in the study.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/science-first-nations-oral-tradition-converging-1.3853799

The Mapping of Massacres: In Australia, historians and artists have turned to cartography to record the widespread killing of Indigenous people.

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Really interesting article that gets into the importance of history and why we fight over it. In addition, how do we acquire knowledge of the past? In doing this project, the lead historian has to distinguish between the massacres based on the strength of evidence to support their happening. What is also interesting is what kind of evidence was used. Should indigenous oral histories be counted on? Or only traditionally western accounts such as newspapers? This argument plays out in the United States as well.

Lastly, rather than writing a book, the research was presented on a map. Why does the impact of this information feel different when presented visually rather than verbally? What does this tell us about the power of art when learning about history?

“In many Indigenous communities, art works have long had dual functions as historical sources, as repositories of cultural or spiritual knowledge, and as maps of territory. There is an established tradition of mapping massacre sites through art, as in the acclaimed paintings by the Aboriginal artists Rover Thomas, Queenie McKenzie, and Rusty Peters, among others. Watson wanted viewers of her video to be aware that any map is a slippery, contested artifact, and also to have a bodily response to the work. She told me the story of one of her relatives, who, after viewing the video, turned to her in anguish, saying, “Where wasn’t there a massacre?””

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/mapping-massacres

It may be good fun, but it’s not always good history

“Screenwriters interpret historical events to entertain, but to make up facts shows a lack of responsibility”

“Naturally, there are risks to taking in your history alongside your entertainment. There’s only one take on offer and popular historical depictions very much tend to play to the mores of the time. The dark side of Britain’s colonial past has long been papered over in our popular culture. The boundary between popular history and propaganda can sometimes be fuzzy.

“But to what extent is there ever such a thing as “pure” history, anyway? This is a theme eloquently explored by Mantel in this year’s Reith lectures. Confronting pupils with conflicting source material is one of the first lessons of grownup history: there is no one “true” interpretation of events. Historians may engage in an admirable search for the truth, but no historian can claim to present a neutral account: even if they stick to bone-dry facts corroborated by multiple sources, picking which ones to use is in itself interpretation.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/31/it-may-be-good-fun-but-its-not-always-good-history-the-crown

 

Between fact and fiction

“To write history is to fill our glass with water from the Thames and claim we have captured the river. This is as true of Jane Smiley as it is of Niall Ferguson, but the author of fiction makes no claim to objective truth or authority and so may be more true to our times.”

http://www.historytoday.com/mathew-lyons/between-fact-and-fiction?mc_cid=84d899c964&mc_eid=34e2887073

We Legitimize the ‘So-Called’ Confederacy With Our Vocabulary, and That’s a Problem

Fascinating article that delves into the role of language and its effect on our understanding of history as well as the present. How is our collective memory shaped by the words we use to describe the past?

“Landis goes on to suggest that we call plantations what they really were—slave labor camps; and drop the use of the term, “the Union.” A common usage in the 19th century to be sure, but now one we only use “the Union” in reference to the Civil War and on the day of the State of the Union address. A better way to speak of the nation during the war, he argues, is to use its name, the United States.”

“As Douglass was already concerned that the victors were losing the war of historical memory to the supposedly vanquished, I am not sure that he would have been surprised that not far from where he stood at the national cemetery—often considered the nation’s most hallowed ground—a Confederate memorial would be built in the early 20th century to the insurgents he felt “struck at the nation’s life.”

“Douglass knew, day-by-day, after the shooting stopped, a history war was playing out. It is clearly not over yet. Words, though they do not stand as marble and bronze memorials in parks and in front of buildings or fly on flagpoles, are perhaps even more powerful and pernicious. The monuments we’ve built with language may, in fact, be even more difficult to tear down.”

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/we-legitimize-so-called-confederacy-vocabulary-thats-problem-180964830/#D3DM5FOjKPhcmXuR.01