Outbreaks of revisionist history are questioning deeply held views





Outbreaks of revisionist history are currently questioning the deepest beliefs about the past of countless citizens in France, Britain and the US.

In France, a compendium of essays entitled The Black Book of the French Revolution has triggered a media avalanche of dismay and disgust with its indictment, not only of the violence of the Terror and the ruinous wars that wracked Europe from 1792 to 1815, but of the revolutionary ideal itself.France, of course, does maintain a state faith: in the Republican virtues of 1789, lauded automatically by left and right alike. To challenge them can feel like a form of blasphemy.

Meanwhile, the maverick American author Nicholson Baker has just published Human Smoke. This documentary-style collage of the events that led up to the Second World War makes the pacifist's – some might say the appeaser's case – against the conflict. It presents Franklin D Roosevelt and, above all, Winston Churchill as racist warmongers, aggressive conspirators, and blood-soaked war criminals. The book suggests that a negotiated peace with Nazi Germany would have prevented more misery than it caused, and comes close to implying that reckless Allied force pushed Hitler towards genocide. Expect a carnival of excoriation when Baker's bombshell reaches these Winston-worshippping shores in May.

In both cases, the threat to orthodoxy comes from rather subtler weapons than the gross lies peddled say by Holocaust deniers. Indeed, plenty of Britons will be far more appalled by the idea that Churchill's ferocious intransigence somehow contributed to the "human smoke" of Auschwitz than by the fantasies of David Irving and his sorry crew.



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