History is a nonfiction narrative that reads like a novel, packed with actions, emotions, and characters, in the discovery of the universal human traits; it is both considered as parts of Humanities and Social Sciences in modern academia with the beauty of literature and the authority of science. That is why history is the most potent basis of political tool for manufacturing ideology in the form of a myth. Nazism was the proverbial example of the myth as an effective propaganda that called for the unity of the Germans. But the building of myth is not confined in the Germans; it’s an in-vogue political trend across the Seven Seas, which shoehorns ambitious political ideology into a suitably fashionable story of national pride and beguiling ethnocentrism.
Historian Michael Wood’s article “Dangerous Histories” in this month’s BBC History is the most apposite to such current revisionist view on history. In the article, his example of India, where the rise of the Hindu nationalist movement imbibes the populace with the mythical Hindu past that was claimed to be distorted by medieval Muslim conquests and British colonialism, bespeaks a danger of rewriting an untruthful history without objective facts, tempered by blind jingoism and askew ethnocentrism. In fact, such revisionist rewriting of history contributes to a powerful social cohesion of the populace in times of national crisis. It’s really a case of mass mind-control by means of myth, the imagined history tinged with false patriotism and insular outlook on the world.
History is a collective narrative of a people who have been together through thick and thin, warts and all, sharing the same culture in the same place for centuries. Thus, it shapes the sense of identity of the people among others. However, if history serves to berating peoples of other nations to claim its own cultural superiority over them and therefore rightful subjugation of their cultures, then history as the factual subject in the academia loses its force of truth and becomes no more than a propagandist manifesto of jingoism. Let history be history, not a legend. Maybe it is high time we invoked the spirit of the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, who put forward factual and empirical elements in historical narratives.