Should history be regulated?

Are there any circumstances that will make it acceptable to do so?

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Littledean Jail is a small museum based in the UK that is widely known for its (seemingly) politically incorrect, and bizarre visitor attraction.

Andy Jones, the collector who owns Littledean Jail, enjoys subjects that touch upon the holocaust, Klu Klux Klan, fascism in Britain, and celebrity scandals which are clear through his collection in the museum.

Pictured: Letters signed by Adolf Hitler and Death Camp Uniforms [Source: Daily Mail]

Displayed items include macabre mementos like Rose West’s underwear (a notorious British serial killer who was convicted of ten murders, including the death of her eight-year-old stepdaughter in 1971), Nazi memorabilia, death camp uniforms, and other serial killers’ possessions.

Pictured: A decorative heart cushion made by Rose West (left) and given to Linda Calvey (a British murderer convicted of killing her lover). While on the right is an empty chocolate box which was gifted to Calvey by Myra Hindley (another English serial killer who was guilty of raping and murdering five small children) [Source: Daily Mail]

Based from this, people generally have no rules to follow which enables them to put anything up for display, albeit for educational purposes or solely just to generate shock value.

History needs these artefacts to prove that an event happened despite it being shocking and controversial because in order for history to be credible, there needs to be an external arbiter, like empirical evidence in this case, to prove its existence.

Interestingly, discussing about evidence brings in another debate of its significance and more importantly, its limitations.

While evidence plays a major in history when proving claims to be valid or justified.

Evidence also plays a crucial role in scientific debate on the extent of mankind’s reliance on evidence to satisfy a claim.

It is because evidence can often lead to numerous of varying interpretations. And depending on the angle, it is possible that the evidence supporting a premise can be illogical or irrational.

This makes me wonder: Is it possible to reenact history without somehow condoning the bad parts? Is it unethical to present the unfavourable parts of history? To what extent does the evidence displayed erode or destroy the true meaning of history? Is this the best way to understand history?

Ultimately, it boils down to the following: should we regulate history?

History should be regulated to deter hate crimes

Defendants of regulation commonly would argue that history needs to be regulated in order to hinder spiking hate speeches, public turmoils, segregation, and emotional disputes.

Washington DC / unsplash

Physical monuments that symbolise oppression, and corrupted power that have been placed across America during as early in the 18th century are now being heavily disputed for its abolishment.

Modern thinkers say that these derogatory symbols should be taken down and removed from the streets because it spites the terrible memory of history.

As clearly revealed in contemporary politics, headlines showed citizens going on the streets to express their views on the matter.

The outcome of discussing the controversial bits of history oftentimes result in an even more divided society due to a whole slew of reasons like tribalism (democrats believe in X cause while republicans believe in Y cause, etc) and so on.

While, on the other side of the coin, most people would argue that demolishing the physical structure will result into a lost of history which brings me on to my second point :

Well no, history can be lost if it is regulated

Primary students and teachers visited an original Spanish Mission site dressed up as Indians and Franciscan friars and engaged in activities such as making candles, spinning wool, and weaving baskets which leaves the children an impression that the Spanish mission was a fun process.

https://teachmag.com/archives/7741

When really, the program omitted brutal facts of the mission (i.e. a good number of Native American population died from fatal diseases during the Spanish Mission, there was an institutionalised struggle of power, and more).

If history as a whole is regulated, then this would affect other parts of history, not only exclusively to war and serial killers, but also the history of culture too.

Indigenous groups relies on the role of memory and emotion to pass on culture and social values from one generation to the next.

Simply rewriting, alliterating, or disregarding a few components (which are processes in regulation) would result in a misrepresentation and, if not, a loss of culture.

(On the other hand) History should be regulated to promote nationalism and unity

Retrieved from: The proposed curriculum and guidelines for the new AP History Class

This point is pretty self-explanatory but one question: how will this affect people’s perception on their own country’s history and government?

Leading to my second point …

Though doing so would devalue the aim of history

the truth will set you free / unsplash

The aim of history is to reveal the true accounts of what occurred in order for historians and in turn the general public to have a better understanding of the past for the future.

In this process, it allows us to reflect our standards, defend non-discriminatory ones, and uphold good faith ones.

Presenting a country’s history in a positive light hinders this pursuit of truth which deliberately hinders the progress in society and possible valuable paradigm shifts.

Ultimately, regulating would devalue the aim of history.

All in all, history should not be regulated on the premise of deterring hate crimes or promoting nationalism because to con-cot the idea that a country is great when it is not only means the practices and systems in place need to be reviewed in order to make better ones

I.e. America cannot hide their history of slavery and oppression against the African Americans but they can continue to defend non-discriminatory practices and remain determined to make good faith efforts to remedy the issue.

Simply shying away from the issue would actually create a bigger and irreversible issue.

While it is possible that hate crimes may be enabled, government should encourage creative solutions that aids the victims and satisfies the public as well.

Instead of allowing physical statues that symbolise autocracy, these should be placed in the museum to condone and respect the bad parts of history but also preserving history itself and all aspects of it (including culture).

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