Thursday, July 2, 2009

Procrustes and the study of history

David Solway, the Canadian author and essayist, has an interesting posting on Pajamas Media about history being manipulated to suit modern prejudices. He calls it Procrustean history after the mythical robber and his famous bed.

I particularly liked his no-holds-barred description of President Obama's infamous and historically ignorant speech in Cairo:
It is replete with distortions, fabrications, lacunae, misconceptions, inaccuracies, lies, exaggerations, and outright historical fallacies. There is scarcely a passage without its resident howler.
Couldn't have put it better myself. In fact, I probably could not do so.

The only problem with the theory is that Procrusteanism has always been rife in the study of history. At any time there was a tendency to stretch historical studies or to chop bits off to suit the current mode of thinking. The difference is that it was rarely based on quite so little knowledge and quite so much wishful thinking.

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