Why the way we think about history is important

Matthew Wright

There is a notion that history consists of ‘the facts’ – that all you have to do is discover ‘the facts’, which are literally true at face value, and that these ‘facts’ then ‘speak for themselves’. Such thinking, among other things, has fuelled the kind of dribble that I see pouring from the minds and mouths of such lobby groups, here in New Zealand, as ‘Hobson’s Pledge’. Why they named themselves after a brand of furniture polish has never been clear to me.

From the perspective of professional history what such groups are doing is Dunning-Krugerism at its finest; they are so ignorant of the basic principles of the profession that they aren’t even aware of their ignorance. But the purpose of such lobby groups is not to explore the past to understand it. What such groups are doing is weaponising selected data from history to suit their agenda –…

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