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Thread: Beware of history books propaganda

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    Default Beware of history books propaganda

    I used to hate history books and I could not understand why. Now I finally get it. Any history book is only as good as the person that wrote it and his agenda. Really with many different views in the world you can pick what you want to write.

    I think history should not be taught until college. 14-16 year olds are way too impressionable to think for themselves. They can easily get brainwashed.


    Here is one little excerpt from a European history book I have written by Norman Davies, a British Oxford professor:

    "Bolsheviks spurned St. Petersburg and moved the capital to Moscow".

    Now the word "spurned" by itself insinuates a bad thing. But from the way I was taught in Russia the reason for moving the capital to Moscow was because St. Petersburg/Leningrad was a port city and was vulnerable to a Naval attack whereas Moscow was much deeper inland.

    Be careful of history books! Some of them will find right and wrong according to their own agenda.

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    Default Re: Beware of history books propaganda

    Yes, beware. And you give a good example. But that doesn't mean we should throw out the book with the bath water.

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    Default Re: Beware of history books propaganda

    Quote Originally Posted by matclone View Post
    Yes, beware. And you give a good example. But that doesn't mean we should throw out the book with the bath water.
    The book itself seems like a very good book. However, I find the language extremely caustic whenever Bolsheviks, Lenin and communists are described.

    For example, throughout the book the author mentions communism and fascism in the same sentence and almost never separately even though the ideology of communism is similar to Christianity whereas the ideology of fascism is in itself based on racism and such.

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    Default Re: Beware of history books propaganda

    Historical views are often colored by the ideas of the time.

    If you read any American history book prior to, say, the 1950s, it probably would have spoke of American Indians being (directly or indirectly) an inferior or savage people.

    If you read any American history prior to the 1970s, it may well have spoken of the "negro problem" in America (even from a leftist historian).

    Any history from a westerner during the cold war (and even before) is likely to reflect an antipathy toward communism.

    An Englishman's history of even 50 years ago, would have likely been imbued by notions of colonialism.

    Soviet history books probably were critical of the U.S. and capitalism.

    Ideas die hard. But they also change over time. I'd say you'll never find a perfect historical account of anything. But that doesn't mean they don't have value. We just have to read critically. Some histories are better than others.

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    Default Re: Beware of history books propaganda

    Yeah, also what is interesting is that some Russian names are interpreted wrong. For example: Ivan the Terrible was translated from Ivan Grozniy in Russian. To me "terrible" means really bad or awful. But "Grozniy" in Russian comes from the word "Groza" or "Thunder". In Russia Grozniy meant instilling fear or very tough so to speak.

    I know "terrible" means terrifying as well but that is not how terrible is used most of the time.

    In any case, the right translation would be Ivan Thunder-like or Ivan the Thunder.
    Last edited by Big; 09-10-2007 at 04:46 PM.

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    Default Re: Beware of history books propaganda

    Interesting. I didn't know that. Yes, the name Ivan the Terrible, suggests (to this English speaker) someone who killed a lot of people (ala Vlad the Impaler) or who everyone was afraid of.

    I still intend to buy the two movies of that name (from the late 1940s) (saw part of them on TV), which are supposed to be famous, but apparently Stalin didn't like them.

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    Default Re: Beware of history books propaganda

    Quote Originally Posted by matclone View Post
    Historical views are often colored by the ideas of the time.

    If you read any American history book prior to, say, the 1950s, it probably would have spoke of American Indians being (directly or indirectly) an inferior or savage people.

    If you read any American history prior to the 1970s, it may well have spoken of the "negro problem" in America (even from a leftist historian).

    Any history from a westerner during the cold war (and even before) is likely to reflect an antipathy toward communism.

    An Englishman's history of even 50 years ago, would have likely been imbued by notions of colonialism.

    Soviet history books probably were critical of the U.S. and capitalism.

    Ideas die hard. But they also change over time. I'd say you'll never find a perfect historical account of anything. But that doesn't mean they don't have value. We just have to read critically. Some histories are better than others.
    I couldn't agree more with everything written.

    As a bit of a history buff myself I always caution against forming an opinion on something historical without spending plenty of time reading primary source material. Even then it's neccesary to try and find primary sources from both sides of a given issue because even first hand accounts of the same event can widely vary based on which side you're on. I saw a great example of this first hand at Fort Meigs here in Ohio. My Uncle, who works in the political history department for the Ohio Historical Society, pointed out two letters at the museum. One was written by a US soldier describing the last few days of the seige by the British. The other was a letter written by a British soldier dated the exact same day about the same events. The difference in perception of the events was striking.

    While most history books are pretty good at getting the basic facts across. I agree that there is always some form or level of the author's opinion worked in. I'm especially wary of authors who use a large number of other secondary sources for their own book. BTW, excellent examples of how a word such as 'spurned' can influence the perception of the reader.

    I don't agree with not teaching history to high school students. I would however suggest that more of the curriculum be the reading of primary source materials and letting the students form their own opinions, rather than having them influenced by some guy at Simon and Schuster.

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    Default Re: Beware of history books propaganda

    Big, I can't imagine what life would be like if kids didn't study history until college. They need as much history as possible and as early as possible. How else will they learn about the world around them? True, there are some bad texts out there. We just need to teach our kids to think for themselves and not accept everything they read as the truth, just like we teach them not to believe every TV ad they see. When we sent our oldest son to college, I gave him a card that said "Question the answers."
    "All my life I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower wherever the flower would grow in thought and mind." -- Abraham Lincoln

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    Default Re: Beware of history books propaganda

    Quote Originally Posted by BonnieJ2 View Post
    Big, I can't imagine what life would be like if kids didn't study history until college. They need as much history as possible and as early as possible. How else will they learn about the world around them? True, there are some bad texts out there. We just need to teach our kids to think for themselves and not accept everything they read as the truth, just like we teach them not to believe every TV ad they see. When we sent our oldest son to college, I gave him a card that said "Question the answers."
    I rather doubt that kids who are well educated in history can still learn to question what they have learned in the past. If they learn one perspective, how will they ever get enough motivation to read and think from another perspective?


    Its better not to know the world until later than know the wrong things about it.

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