17 May 2023

What is historical revisionism? – Learn the function of historical revisionism

By Donald

Historians take care of investigate those events of importance in the history of humanity, to know the truth of the facts. However, there may be many hidden interests. This is why historical revisionism is based on critically reinterpreting events and giving a more precise analysis.

What does historical revisionism mean?

The expression “historical revisionism” refers to a current of historiography, in which an alternative perspective is given and accepted by the majority of analysts. In other words, it is an interpretation that is controversial, compared to the official version.

Therefore, historical revisionism consists of revising the sources of a historical event or period. To give an example, you can review prehistory from a different perspective, or by providing recent data that could change the way history is seen. The purpose of this area is complement the information of a period or event, although it must be taken into account that it is not always used for this purpose.

The objective of this current is to overcome the limitations or biases present in the established historical narratives. Also, you can re-evaluate sourcesthe use of current approaches, the incorporation of marginalized voices and perspectives, as well as the questioning of previous assumptions and beliefs.

It is important to highlight that it is not a single current, but an approach with different historical contexts and periods through time. In such a way, they can generate conflicts if old interpretations are challenged or established political or cultural narratives are confronted.

What does revisionism pose?

It raises a series of questions and proposals regarding the traditional interpretation of the historical events. Some of the common approaches of historical revisionism include:

  • Reassessment of historical sources: revisionists seek to examine the sources that are used in order to construct the authentic narrative. In addition, they question the objectivity and reliability of these sources and explore new ones or reinterpret existing ones.
  • Alternate perspective: it involves giving a voice to marginalized groups, such as women, ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, and other actors who may have been ignored in mainstream narratives.
  • Questioning of interpretations: revisionists change the hermeneutic that has already been established. Also, they seek to re-examine historical events from different angles. For this reason they contradict the causes and consequences that have already been accepted, offering new explanations or more balanced interpretations.
  • New methodologies: It must be borne in mind that it is preferred to use various innovative approaches, to analyze the important events of history. They may also draw on disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, psychology, or other fields to further their understanding of historical events.

What are the characteristics of revisionism?

This approach is characterized by seeking a review of history through new insights and methodological evidence. Here are some common features associated with revisionism:

  • Disputes over narratives: they are the historical interpretations that are accepted and thus, to be able to decisively examine the traditional accounts. Seeks to analyze historical sources with a critical eye and consider different points of view and contexts.
  • Use of new sources: they tend to search for recent primary and secondary sources, as well as employ innovative research methods. Therefore, it can include analysis of documents, as well as testimonies and archaeological records or others that have not been previously considered.
  • Focus on subjectivity and diversity of perspectives: The importance of recognizing the subjectivity inherent in the construction of the story and considering multiple points of view is emphasized. They seek to give voice to marginalized or ignored groups in traditional historical narratives.
  • Reassessment of myths or beliefs: revisionism generally challenges or questions established historical myths that may have influenced the interpretation and understanding of past events. This implies a critical analysis of preconceived ideas and a willingness to re-evaluate accepted beliefs.
  • Historical contextualization: The events are located in their time and environment, likewise, certain social, political, economic and cultural factors that may be relevant must be taken into account. In addition, he strives to understand the motivations and circumstances that influenced the historical actors.
  • Openness to debate and dialogue: encourages controversy and the exchange of ideas between historians and academics. Recognizes that history is a constantly evolving field and encourages constructive discussion to enhance historical understanding.

Main examples of Historical revisionism

Historical revisionism is often a response to prevailing narratives that are seen as incomplete or inaccurate. Thus, the following examples stand out:

  • Holocaust denial: is an extreme example of historical revisionism, since it denies the existence of the Holocaust and the magnitude of the genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany during World War II. One of the main promoters was David Irving, a British man who states that the extermination of Jewish citizens is a lie, based on the manipulation of certain information and media propaganda.
  • Review of the Civil War in the United States: Some revisionists have reinterpreted the cause and impact of this conflict, arguing that it was more about state rights and less about slavery. There are also revisionists who have questioned the figure of Abraham Lincoln and his role in the war.
  • Review of the history of indigenous peoples: Events in North American Native Communities has been revised to include their perspective and experiences. This has led to a reassessment of European conquest and colonization, as well as a reclaiming of indigenous memories and culture.
  • Cold War Review: this conflict has been the subject of review, as some historians have argued that the foreign policy of the United States was aggressive and caused the arms race. The role of the Soviet Union in the war and its impact on world politics have also been questioned.
  • Review of the French Revolution: It has been the subject of numerous analyses, questioning the nature of the revolution, its impact, and its leaders. Some revisionists have argued that it was a failure, while others have defended it as a progressive and liberating movement.