History is more bunk than ever

Possibly Transgender ?

An eight-part drama about the Nuremberg Trials has started on Radio 4. Rhian Roberts, a BBC Commissioning Editor said it was, ‘Designed to present phenomenal moments of history in a compelling style so we can all continue to understand how our world was shaped by them.’

What we got was inexplicable; no Lord Shawcross, Britain’s lead prosecutor, whose opening speech, lasting two days, disputed the idea that the trials were in any way ‘victor’s justice,’ or revenge. We got attacks on Britain, and Churchill compared unfavourably to Stalin. ‘At least he wasn’t a hypocrite.’ America rather than Germany appeared to be in the dock.

The narrator is a posh young gel, the trope of the sexy female spy, who’d apparently been groomed only for marriage, recruited to SOE because she was good at skiing and more  importantly, she hates her class. Not a common attitude among toff girls at the time, but this it’s the new History, termed, ‘Presentism’ where the past is judged by our own standards and blame freely apportioned, usually to white middle-class men. This is called ‘Critical race theory,’ and challenges previous interpretations of culture and education, pitching the accusation of white racism into every subject.  The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) has just removed the ‘W’ from its name and taken down photos of the great man from their web site, claiming he was a racist.

Of course, History has always been a propaganda tool. When Henry Ford said ‘History is bunk,’ in 1921, he meant it was often manipulated. His maxim has been cynically espoused by the Left who insist that it is no more than worthless disinformation, written by victors and imperialists. That theory is now also overlaid Marx, who said all History is about class struggle.

This blurring of boundaries between teaching subject knowledge and preaching politics has profoundly affected the teaching of History and in some cases almost abolished it. Talking about the WCMT, historian Sir Max Hastings blamed, ‘Sheer ignorance.’ With post-pandemic confusion in schools, the grip of Marxist teaching may get stronger. The lack of Michael Gove who wanted to bring back traditional, chronological history teaching is a loss.  Oxford’s vice-chancellor, Louise Richardson has just greeted the start of the new academic term by declaring she is, ‘Embarrassed’ that he was ever a student there, whilst called for, ‘More ideological diversity,’ i.e., people who think like her.

Now that history teaching is so poor, it’s not always easy for people to articulate their instinctive desire to defend the historical past. Robert Tombs, Professor Emeritus of French History at Cambridge has started, ‘History Reclaimed,’ an internet site, offering unbiased facts about ‘dead white males’ such as Darwin who are currently being traduced. He aims to target, ‘Ideologically-driven distortions,’ about our history.

‘You read in the paper that Churchill is a racist and you think could that really be true,’ he says. ‘History has become one of the major battlegrounds in the culture wars that are causing anger and alarm across the democratic world.’

His new site will publish, ‘Short and accessible pieces’ for the public and for, ‘Ministers, civil servants, trustees of museums and galleries, and local authorities who may suffer woke bullying. ‘There must be local councillors who think, what is the truth about this?’ says Tombs. ‘‘Should we pull it down, put up an explanation, or what?’  We’ll provide what I hope will be solid and historical explanations.’

He and his co-editor, professor David Abulafia, want to arm everyone against the thinking which associates Imperialism and slavery exclusively with Europeans. ‘Adherents of Critical Race Theory place Europe at the heart of their arguments,’ says Abulafia, ‘ignoring empire-building and enslavement in Mongol Eurasia, or among the Aztecs and Incas.’ He might also add in African kingdoms such as Dahomey.  ‘What is deeply contentious’ he says, ‘is the insistence that everything significant in world history flowed out of the slave trade to the Americas.’

Strangely, while everything apparently flowed from the evils of European culture, we are not allowed to believe that anything significant ever happened in Europe; the term ‘Renaissance,’ has been replaced by ‘Early Modern,’ as it suggested some particularity in the West, deliberately distracting from cultural advances in Africa and the Middle East. What we were once taught to call the ‘Enlightenment’ was apparently just a racist enterprise. Abulafia points to the injustice and inaccuracy of the woke view that the cultivation of sugar, tobacco and cotton by slaves provided all the capital and raw materials for the Industrial Revolution, ignoring the massive profits from the earlier wool industry and Agricultural Revolution. Alleging that all UK wealth derives from black slavery ignores centuries of back-breaking labour by British people on the land and in heavy industry.

‘Unless we push back, this will continue to be imposed on the British public,’ says Professor Doug Stokes, who teaches international relations at Exeter, one of forty academics connected to the site. ‘This country has played a hugely progressive role in history: the Magna Carta; the abolition movement; fighting the Nazis. People should feel proud of that.’

Hopefully British History can be reclaimed. We may even take pride again in some of what we once had; Prof Tombs has been invited onto the new government Heritage Advisory Board, (HAD) created to establish guidelines on how to deal with, ‘difficult heritage’ and ‘help boards make effective decisions about how to deal with objects that are contested within the government’s policy framework of ‘retain and explain.’’

Perhaps his new site should be called, ‘The Bunker,’ a cache where de-bunkers can themselves be debunked, a safe haven for truth and nuance, just in time to save them from extinction.

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8 Comments on History is more bunk than ever

  1. I’m grateful to Jane Kelly for listening to BBC Radio 4, so that the rest of us don’t have to.

    I predict that Professor Tombs won’t last long.

  2. Then there’s the bunkum as time marches on, creating new history. I see that a big announcement is due from DC tonight re the West’s current take on the threats posed by China and Islamism. Might be interesting, if rather light on the main matters that naturally will not be mentioned in public. But with the USA now in ultra-woke mode (see the phenomena of Gen. Milley, SoS Blinken, in addition to the Harris-Biden thing), history will never be the same again. Chuckle.

  3. The Nazi persecution and killing of Jews and others have been a convenient major asset in the woke “race, gender, class” propganda warfare, albeit with historical fibs such as the mass-gassing of lesbians added on. Muslims and most Blacks were not harmed in Germany, the latter recruited as film extras and even as soldiers. Yet another Holocaust Centre but £10 million bigger is going to record British racism and tell our politicians never again to be naughty “racists, sexists, fascists” in any shape, form or future definitions. That is why it is being built on an otherwise quite unsuitable site “right next to Parliament” as careful research will confirm. With England transformed through immigration and school/media agitprop into an Afro-Asian-Mulatto socialist republic, this Centre will become more than a sacred monument to the Jewish “Shoah” over 70 years ago but a Temple for White Repentance.

    • £100 million. The Anglo-Jewish community is divided on the wisdom of this new monstrosity, and see e.g. Valeri Monchi,”Prospect”, 20 July 1999 online. The Holocaust is the only compulsory element in the history curriculum in our woke schools.

      How much would ever go to commemorate the millions killed by Communism or Islam?

  4. We anti-bunkumists are capable of recognising and describing bunkum. But we lack the strategic and implementation skills to eradicate said assault on Reality and Western Civ more generally. Or is it that we know what must be done and how to do it, but we lack the stomach.

    • Indeed. However, the slipperiest element of the woke philosophy is its total abandonment, and even denial, of reason and logic. It is the politics of pure power, and so relies on bullying as well as the eternally hard-headed and stupid to serve as their useful idiots.

      Therefore it is incredibly difficult to convince its adherents through debate since the very tools with which we communicate are seen by them as illegitimate and part of the patriarchy / white supremacy etc.

      We may as well be from another planet. Though deeply pessimistic all I can hope is that by constant repetition of reason and logic, they can one day be persuaded. After all, one rain drop falling on stone does little…but over time drop by drop, even the hardest of granites can be penetrated.

  5. Great news that the learned professors of history are willing to defend their discipline – and the rest of us – in public. The government’s approach described above as ‘retain and explain’ isn’t good enough – its just the usual double-talk characteristic of politicians and the higher civil service when they want to de-fuse a crisis without really taking sides. This is no time for such compromises – in this context ‘explain’ means allowing the wokists to continue strutting their stuff instead of issuing a firm rebuke.

  6. Bunk is a shortening of bunkum, a phonetic spelling of Buncombe County in North Carolina. It dates to the 1820s when a representative stood up in Congress & began a long boring speech, but not a filibuster, and refused to give way because he wasn’t speaking to the House but the newspaper readers of Buncombe. Rather like MPs who ask a question at PMQs lauding the virtues of their constituency, knowing it will be reported. Anyway, my comment is bunk, but this article most definitely isn’t.