Most of the time I hear someone use the term “revisionist history” it’s used in a negative connotation. This has become ever more the case in the past decade as people discuss the Clinton economy, the Iraq War or 9/11. It has come to mean an alteration of the truth of history in order to present a more optimistic or pessimistic version of historical events. However, the origin of the term does not carry that connotation. It was meant to counter the embellishments applied by storytellers (not historians) when writing about historical figures–storytellers such as Parson Weems who fabricated the story of George Washington and the cherry tree or John Smith’s yarn about his relationship with Pocohantas.
Not long after the Treaty of Versailles ended WWI, historians discussing the documentation of that conflict determined that Germany should not bear the entirety of blame for the global conflict that was supposed to end all other wars. In reality, the Allies significantly contributed to the causes that led to Germany’s aggression and the our written history should not be so subjectively one-sided. The result was a decision to “revise” the written history of that conflict. History transitioned from a cold expression of dates and “facts” to a living, evolving conversation about events and the reasons behind them. The act of revising history evolved over the next couple of decades until historians generally devised a construct that suggested looking at historical events through four different lenses: political, economic, racial and sexual
Here are a few things we might not know about if it wasn’t for revisions history: Sally Hemmings, Malcom X, Tuskegee Airmen, Japanese Interment Camps, the Trail of Tears, and more.
Interesting fact: The following brands/products were created by Nazi Germans: Volkswagon, Hugo Boss clothing, Siemens, and orange Fanta. True, orange Fanta was created because the Coca-Cola plants in Germany could not produce Coca-Cola after the trade embargo so a Nazi German Coca-Cola employee created the recipe for orange Fanta in order to allow the plant to produce something. Also, did you know the that wholesome, international company IBM actually developed the technology that allowed Nazi Germans to keep track of Jewish prisoners in concentration camps? I didn’t, but I’m revising my understanding of history.