On occasion, I have been accused of being a revisionist historian. To these accusations I must confess that I am proud to claim my guilt. Those who claim this about me or about history in part or whole are missing the bigger important fact. They assume that all that can be known about something in history is known and nothing more can be added. This can’t be farther form the truth.
Case in point, when did World War Two start? Most would give two possible dates, 1939 or 1941. 1939 is when war broke out in Europe. 1941 is when the United Sates was attacked and we entered the war. What if I told you that 1919 or 1936 could be correct dates from other points of view.
1919 was the end of the Great War and the treaty of Versailles laid the conditions for the second half of the Great War on how German and one of our allies, Japan, was treated. 1936 needs a little more background. While I was a young Marine back in the early 1990’s, our Company Commander took us to Pearl Harbor to see the USS Arizona. On that day, he would get more than he was ready for. For us, the Arizona is a tomb and the sight of an unprovoked attack on us, or so I was taught growing up in school.
About half an hour after our company of Marines in our nice “Charlie” dress uniform arrived on the Arizona, a boat with Japanese tourists boarded the memorial. They were happy, joking and laughing and from our perspective being very disrespectful. Before things could get out of hand, our Officer and Staff NCOs took charge and got us off the memorial. On the boat ride back, an employee form the National Parks Service explained that in Japan, they are taught that the United States attacked Japan in 1936 and the attack Oahu, Hawaii was a counter attack against our aggression. 1936 was the year Japan attacked China and the United States placed a trade embargo on Japan.
That was the day I learned that history is about perspectives and each perspective is important. After studying many perspectives a picture starts to develop about that past event. We can never truly completely have an absolute understanding of the event and we can always learn or discover more and that is why we should keep an open mind about things.
For my readers who watch “History” Channel, what if they find the “Money Pit” on Oak Island and it is full of stuff that redefines our understanding of early interactions between Europe and North America? Would we expect history to be revised? Of course we would. So the correct assumption is history is expected to be revised. The correct question we should ask ourselves is why is history being revised? Is it because we found a new discovery like the Dead Sea Scrolls? Or for reasons of propaganda or political purposes like how the military lost the Vietnam War in April of 1975 over a year after the military left after a peace treaty in 1973.
To know, question everything and look at the primary sources for yourself.
Until next month, thank you for reading and please check out (and hopefully like) our Facebook page @hmihistory.