“How Revisionist History Works” Kayla Mizelle

Cristen Conger in her article, “How Revisionist History Works” explains what revisionist history is and the implications that go along with revisionism. Conger defines revisionist history as, “Scholars find inconsistencies or outright fallacies in historical narratives and make the necessary edits, or they examine the reasoning behind historical facts.” [1] This essentially means that somewhere along the road of recording history someone fabricated parts of history either intentionally or unintentionally. Conger uses the well known historical tale of George Washington chopping down a cherry tree in his youth to illustrate her point. Conger points out that this tale was actually created by an early Washington biographer Mason Locke Weems. Omitting this tale has zero historical effect on George Washington’s character or his accreditation as one of our founding fathers. Conger also points out that making these revisions is rather difficult because our prepackaged stories that we were taught from our regular elementary education are a lot more simple than what history truly shows. She also points out that revisionist history also gets a poor name because it is often confused with negationism. Conger uses the example of people denying that the Holocaust ever happened. She says it is people like those who negate the Holocaust ever happened that are creating a bad name for all revisionist history.

I personally really enjoyed this article, Conger, I think, does an excellent job illustrating her points to make them interesting yet relevant. Recently in my US government 1004 class, we have been discussing the reasons why Jim Crow laws were able to take effect and were so easily enforced. My professor explained that it takes a long time for laws to be challenged in the supreme court then it takes a long time for the trial and then a long time for them to be reversed. This meant that the supreme court couldn’t keep up with the speed at which Jim Crow laws were being passed. I feel this is a good parallel to why it is so difficult for commonly understood history to be revised. It takes a long time to fully collect the evidence to fully revise the history. Then once that is accepted by most authors they have to write new textbooks. After the textbooks are published not all schools are able to afford textbooks with in a certain time span. Meaning it could be an additional couple of years after a new textbook was published for schools to even purchase them. At that point, it will have been taught a certain way for many years and that history would have already been accepted. While I feel Conger has a very convincing argument about revisionist histories importance I do also recognize that commonly accepted falsified history is not easy to erase.

[1]. Conger, Cristen. “How Revisionist History Works.” Revisionism as a Negative Term – Negative Historical Revisionism | HowStuffWorks. January 07, 2009. Accessed September 14, 2017. http://history.howstuffworks.com/history-vs-myth/revisionist-history4.htm.

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  1 comment for ““How Revisionist History Works” Kayla Mizelle

  1. hryan
    September 17, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    That’s a really interesting comparison. Besides the practical hurdles, there are also cultural barriers to revising history. People become attached to the history they learned and may not like being told that it was wrong.
    -HR

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