Letter: Actions matter, not words

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The Independent Online
ROY FOSTER makes many useful points about history. The historians who attempt to teach the complexities of the historical process and create an understanding of the world today are being crushed by this psychological approach to the past. If anyone asks the present generation what they know of history, it centres around three main events: the Holocaust, the sinking of the Titanic, and the revitalised Remembrance Day.

Two forces are at work. First, the search for credibility by public institutions, in which the commemoration of past disasters is seen as a way of bringing society together. Second, the atomisation of our present society which precludes a historical outlook that can conceptualise human history as a whole, and instead makes people prone to sentimentalise the past in order to make them feel better about themselves.

STEPHEN NASH

London SE16

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