Politics of History

Laws, policies and government programs shape historical narratives

The ways in which history and the past are used in the present are manifold. History is not only debated publicly or displayed and showcased in museums and temporary exhibitions, but historical narratives and experiences are also an integral part of political decision-making processes and of policy. Referring to the past or invoking historical images in order to strengthen political arguments, discredit political opponents or push for certain policies is a common tool in any political discourse. Especially in times of rapid change, but also in stable democracies, state representatives seek to establish a relationship to the past, whether by way of breaking with perceived wrongs or by suggesting a continuation of what is seen as morally right. Either way, politicians seek to create narratives of what happened, and to reinforce them through official speeches, laws and public policy as well as through institutional channels.

In democratic and pluralist societies, this is done in an open competition and placed under continuous scrutiny by both political opponents and a critical public. 

In this section, we collect articles that critically discuss specific policies, laws and institutions, but also speeches and statements by political leaders and state programs that offer new interpretations of the past or aim at regulating public representations of history.