Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Is journalism the 'enemy of history'?

Military Historian Antony Beevor made a bold claim when he declared journalism the ‘enemy of history’ while speaking at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival. The trend towards greater freedom of information, the bestselling author of D-Day claims, has accelerated the ‘instant history’, the snap judgement at which good journalists excel, to the detriment of the reflective consideration of the archives that is the preserve of the historian. It may be that the archives themselves are under threat, a concern to which Beevor alludes. New Labour in particular, and modern politics in general, is obsessed with controlling image, a matter which has led to a greater manipulation and control of information: ‘There is a tremendous pressure on people wanting to protect themselves and their reputations for the future; and they are weeding out information before it gets to the archive, or wiping the digital stuff, and I don’t think historians are going to be able to get at material in the same way in the future’. Of course, politicians have always manipulated their legacy – Churchill was a master – but there is also a lack of confidence common to the modern political class that leads many of them to omit the kind of faults that previous generations of politicians would hardly have thought of as faults at all.

On the teaching of history, Beevor has confirmed himself as a traditionalist, supporting Michael Gove and Niall Ferguson in their campaign to bring ‘real history’ back to schools. ‘History is a question of cause and effect, said Beevor. You need to take events in order to make sense of them.’

In today’s Daily Mail, Ferguson was described as a ‘sexpot historian’. Is this a first?

No comments:

Blog Directory