Authors Name: 
Diarmuid Bolger
University: 
University College Dublin
Category: 
History
Highly commended

‘Barbarians at the gate?’ How have revisionist schools of history challenged national myths?

The purpose of this paper was to study the effect that revisionism has had on historical thought and writing in the last century. Revisionists’ aim to study the past and draw different conclusions from what has already been written, as long as these differences can be backed up by historical sources that have either been discovered since or were initially overlooked. One of the most valuable historical writing tools is hindsight, and a removal of personal emotional feeling that may emerge in more contemporaneous writings that were written in the heat of the immediate debate. This paper looks at three different examples of this. Firstly, America’s role in the Cold War as an aggressor is discussed, instead of the more traditional Soviet aggression beliefs. These mainly came from the ideas of the 45ers: historians who had been born after the Second World War and weren’t as strongly indoctrinated in the Cold War hysteria prevalent at the time. Second is the Black Legend, which is the belief that the deaths and destruction caused by the Spanish with both the invasion of South America and the Inquisition were overwritten in order to tarnish the reputation of the Spanish; the most powerful empire in the 15th and 16th century. While there was death and destruction caused by both is events, some revisionists claim that the numbers have been greatly exaggerated in both cases. Finally, the Tom Barry Kilmichael Ambush, as studied by Peter Hart discussed; who believed, through using unnamed witnesses that Tom Barry and his men and continued to fire on British troops even after they had called surrender. All three of these studies are excellent examples of retrospection being used to formulate historical arguments, which is of vital importance if one is to have a complete grasp of the past.