History is typically defined as the records or accounts of past events written in chronological order. History has long served the purpose of enlightening and informing; to be used as general reference, or to serve as items for comparison with recent, similar, events. The Analysis of History is referred to as the Study of History; that which seeks to explain the causes and consequences of those past events. The usage of History is suspiciously absent from any formal definitions of History. History was, apparently, never intended to be used; just learned from to alter and understand current events. It serves the purpose of teaching and explaining society’s current position in a clear, unbiased nature, and to generally teach the truth behind the events of the past. Indeed, the understanding of History must come from all sides; one must know and understand the ideas, reasons, customs, and cultures behind each party involved in a particular historical event in order to gain the best and most meaningful understanding of the event, and how it took shape. Bias towards one of the parties can lead to an incomplete analysis of the event and can portray the other party(ies) in a negative historical light (Macleod).
In this idea, history as the world recognizes it is largely Euro-centric due to the European Imperial Colonization of nearly all the continents of the world in the 19th century. This is an indisputable fact, but it is also, unfortunately, biased in favor of the Europeans. Historians have noted this in recent times, and have begun to shift their focus towards those peoples, cultures, and ideals that were oppressed by the European culture to remove the Euro-centric bias from the textbooks of the world. While this is a noble cause, there have been those that take this a step further and begin to have a bias against the Europeans and their historical influence that directly led to our modern times. Having a bias towards, or in favor of any historical party is now considered Revisionist History, and by many accounts, is an unethical practice amongst Historians.
But having a bias is only one of the very basic definitions of Revisionist History. Revisionist History has an ambiguous definition and an even more ambiguous use in the confines of our modern society. The events of the past, it seems, has fallen sway to the personal preferences of those who interpret them. Revisionist Historians tend to have a goal-oriented reason for their research; other than the general informing of the public. This goal is typically political in nature, and reflects the general trend shift of academic studies towards a bias of political correctness (Mac Donald). A sort of ‘We’re sorry, how can we make it up to you?’ bias in favor of minority peoples and cultures.
Naturally, the politicizing of historical research can lead to great debates. Were these debates and biases left in the scholastic arena and not utilized in public, there would not be an issue to discuss. But the fact of the matter is that Revisionist History is very prominent within the eye of the public without being noticed. From the class room to the Smithsonian Institute, Revisionist History presents a biased opinion of what should be unbiased historical events.
As mentioned earlier, the Euro-centric view on history was predominant until very recently. Within the class room, out of date text books and aging teaching methods have long hindered the development of cultural and racial equality. The racial inequality of the 1950’s and 60’s could largely be blamed for the historical biases taught in white classrooms. The social inequalities of that time era were reflected within the classroom; teachers taught white students that African Americans were inferior, and those students would later grow old and enact these beliefs in public, towards blacks. Currently, the Euro-centric trend continues, but with hope. More and more authors of high school text books are focusing large portions of the books to minorities, women, and people of the lower class. As promising as this seems, too much focus on minority groups can greatly downplay scientific and cultural achievements of whites and Europeans. Children have long learned a great deal about Martin Luther King Jr., and while he was indisputably a great man who achieved a lot, children hardly learned of Robert F. Kennedy, who did a great deal towards racial equality as well. Both were assassinated for their views, but Martin Luther King Jr. is mentioned more in the class room, while Robert F. Kennedy only gets a few sentences. It can be argued that the achievements of MLK are much greater than those of RFK, so more attention is justly deserved. But for a counter argument, Garrett Morgan, an African American, is commonly credited with creating the first traffic light in 1923. The first traffic light was actually installed in London in 1868; Morgan only created the automated traffic light. Despite this, Morgan’s achievements typically over shadow those of Thomas Edison, whose achievements are too numerous to begin to list, within a typical classroom.
Once the most respected research institutes in the United States, the Smithsonian Institute’s numerous museums are supposed to showcase the stunning and ground breaking achievements of mankind. Instead, the curators of the museums are only interested in presenting historical information that appears to be politically correct. In one case the possessions of former Presidents are near-hidden, where an entire museum is dedicated to promoting the anti-U.S. government agenda of some Native American tribes. It is one thing to display artifacts of a culture in a non-bias atmosphere; it is an entirely different matter to hold a bias against the Euro-American culture within a U.S. funded National Museum (Mac Donald). Or any bias, for that matter. This is not the only case in which minority political interests have held greater sway than a truthful, unbiased account of History within the Smithsonian’s walls, but it is true that at one point in time, museums and ‘scientific’ exhibitions were largely composed of the minority’s cultures’ oddities and stereotypes. Some even went as far as to treat people as animals. It resembled more of a circus than it did an intellectual exhibit. Past events that happened to people who happen to be of the same ethnic origins are not sufficient reasons to provide repercussions to current members of that race of peoples.
It may be said that Revisionist History is nothing but a non-racist point of view of historical events. This is not so. Revisionist History is any history with a bias. “The study of History is a vital tool for the development of any society. Progress is possible only when a society can identify its mistakes and move beyond them. For this to happen, however, the stories of the past must be told truthfully and in an unbiased manner. Revisionist History defeats this goal” (Blute).
Blute, Peter. “Revisionist History Has Few Defenders.” Technology Review. August / September 1995. Vol. 98 Issue 6, pg. 51, 2p.
Mac Donald, Heather. “Revisionist Lust: The Smithsonian Today.” New Criterion. May 1997. Vol. 15 Issue 9, pg. 17, 15p.
Macleod, Anne Scott. “Rewriting History.” Teacher Magazine. April 1998. Vol. 9, Issue 7, pg 34, 4p.