Let ‘history’ become history

Published in Issue 4 (July/August 2014), Letters, Volume 22

Sir,—In most places, history is just history—but not in Ireland, it seems, where history is primarily politics. I find myself nonplussed by your editorial comment about a [British] royal presence in Dublin two years hence—in a journal that calls itself History Ireland? If history must be politics, let me call to mind that French President Chirac invited German Chancellor Schröder to the Normandy beaches for the 60th commemorative celebration in 2004. This in remembrance of a conflict in which millions of French and Germans died, hardly a minor skirmish of European history. Both sides saw the necessity of making friends with neighbours; many former combatants were shaking hands and nothing was being forgotten: Chirac recalled that the Chancellor’s father had been one of the millions killed in the war and Schröder explicitly referred to German atrocities. The act itself was political but the event being commemorated was being consigned to history.

In a world context, Europe is a small place. No matter how vivid Irish memories might be, our fore-fathers merely went through historical and political processes that were common enough at the time throughout the Continent: wars, revolutions, repression of language and culture, border revisions, loss and restoration of independence, all par for the course. Maybe it is time for us to separate ourselves from the ‘unique victim narrative’ of our Irish past and to stand proudly side by side with our closest neighbours, facing into the 21st century. Shouldn’t we now let ‘history’ become, well, history?—Yours etc.,

Dr GERARD P. MONTAGUE
Germany

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