Regarding the Misuse of History

Understanding the people who lived before us is difficult, particularly the people who lived in the prehistoric tribal past. Archaeology throws a bright light on some aspects of their lives but leaves much in the dark. Historical linguistics can illuminate a few of those dark corners. But the combination of prehistoric archaeology with historical linguistics has a bad history. The opportunities for imaginative fantasies of many kinds, both innocent and malevolent, seem dangerously increased when these two very different kinds of evidence are mixed. There is no way to stop that from happening — as Eric Hobsbawm once remarked, historians are doomed to provide the raw material for bigotry and nationalism. But he did not let that stop him from doing history.

— David W. Anthony, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language

For history is the raw material for nationalist or ethnic or fundamentalist ideologies, as poppies are the raw material for heroin addiction. … This state of affairs affects us [historians] in two ways. We have a responsibility for historical facts in general and for criticizing the politico-ideological abuse of history in particular.

— Eric Hobsbawm, On History


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