History talks about…

Title: The uses and abuses of history

Author: Margaret MacMillan

The author is an historian, so she writes it from a historian’s point of view. This book sets out to provide evidence of the uses and abuses of history. The author mentions that history has become a popular topic, not only historians but more and more people, especially politicians, are very interested in using history for justify their political policies. 

History provides lessons, the author suggests, however how to learn this lesson and who owns history are all questionable. Examples that the author has given, range from Europe experience of two world wars, North American history, history of Asian giants like India and China to South Africa. Macmillan expresses her concern of misuses, and abuses of history for purposes of nationalism, and political empowerment.  

How interpreting history is always, as I think, a difficult task. Hitler used history to incite fear, resentment and hatred in Germany which eventually led to world war II and cost millions lives. That is only one of examples that the author talks about.  

I think all those examples are not deep analysed, there is not much more background information. For example, the author raises concerns about rising Indian nationalism, but fails to explain why. She does not mention colonialism and post colonialism in Indian history which shapes a nation. Similar to Tibet, the author fails to mention the long time tensions brought about by involvement of CIA and British government fifty years ago.  

Historical events don’t occur in a vacuum, they are always the result of a chain of events. History needs to be judged not by ideology, but by relevance to the past and objective truth. It is this part that often goes wrong collectively.  

If you like reading history, so you should read this.