22 June 2006

790) The Unbearable Lightness Of Attacking History

Historiography is a very difficult job requiring utmost patience, courage and responsibility. Wandering in the dark labyrinths of history and uncovering the reality hidden in dusty pages and evaluating this reality are a matter of talent. At this point, historian holds a significant power : the power of evaluating history or even rewriting it. This power can be used to discover the secrets of the past or to bury the clearest truth to the deeps of a cliff. It is the historian that decides on to use or abuse this power. However, it is clear that only those that use this power effectively can make their voices be heard in the whole world ; the victory of those who abuse it resembles to a short but destructive rain. It rains and goes away.

Within this framework, the reaction of the French historians against the draft law on the punishment of the so-called Armenian genocide denial in France is quite conspicuous. Indeed, this reaction is not new. In the last December, nineteen eminent French historians came together and issued a declaration, entitled ‘Freedom for History’ and demanded cancellation of four laws that restricted the free historical research and education. Among them was the law that recognized the so-called Armenian genocide on 29 January 2001. In this declaration historians criticized the penetration of political authority to academic life. They argued that history recognized no dogmatic knowledge and it was not the duty of the political authority to define and evaluate historical events.

This declaration was quite significant for its reflection of the basic principles of objective historiography. However, unfortunately, these efforts, which had aimed to save history from political penetration and to provide it with the necessary freedom, could not reach this aim. Recently, French Socialist Party has proposed a draft law on the punishment of the so-called Armenian genocide denial, which would result in the punishment of those who refused the existence of so-called genocide with imprisonment up to one year and 45000 euros of fine. However, the French historians reacted once more to this draft law.

In a new declaration, they declared that parliaments should not write history and should leave this job to the historians. They also emphasized that this draft law was not only against the freedom of thought but also against the freedom of history education. They wrote that this law would capture the history teachers. What is more, in this declaration, the inconsistency of political authorities was criticized. It is written that the attitude of French parliamentarians, who had formerly promised not to adopt a law that would restrict freedom of historical research, was quite surprising.

All in all, as German historian Leopold von Ranke, who was accepted to be the founder of scientific historiography, had declared, history is a science that is responsible for the narration of what actually happened. Any regulation that would impede this narration would damage both the evolution of scientific thinking and the freedom of thought. Abandonment of this draft law by France, which has been renowned to be the cradle of freedom of thought and enlightenment, will result in the correction of not only a political fault, but also an impediment in front of scientific development. We hope that, wisdom, one of the most significant virtues of the mankind, will prevail once more.

Source : IKSAREN

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