Monday, November 26, 2007

Dodgy History

It is to be hoped that the savants of Oxford come to their senses and cancel the proposed debate with Mr. David Irving on free speech.
Undoubtedly this is a subject dear to his heart but it would seem to be an unnecessary opportunity for him to once again inflict his bizarre views on the public.
Although I have never met him, I was at school with his much more sensible older brother, whose views could not be more diametrically opposed and who now disowns him, as does his twin.
But the real tragedy is that David was a jolly good writer. His books are both well researched and highly readable, the fault lying in his twisting of facts and events to promote his own rather unpleasant agenda.
Historians are of necessity bound to be as objective as is humanly possible, not propagandists for their own ends. I doubt that any one of us can truly dissociate ourselves from our opinions, Churchill, for instance, who was in many ways a fine writer of history, was not averse to presenting his side of the case.
And many exhibit a patriotic streak when recounting events, such as the late Stephen Ambrose. But no historian will deliberately distort the facts to provide a basis for their own ideas.
And this is where Irving has come unstuck. His pandering to the former Nazi regime has given him much access to the writings of former members who were no doubt delighted to find that they had a champion in him and thus handed over material that they would have been loth to part with to some other, more objective, researcher.
When dealing with recent history, it is inadvisable for any writer to play fast and loose with the truth, as he has found out in numerous lawsuits, which he has invariably lost.
His research into German archives has been both extensive and fruitful.
It's just such a pity that he did not become a true historian instead of a rabble rouser.
And the Oxford Union would do well to spot the difference.


Post a Comment

<< Home