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History, National Identity, and International Affairs

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, May 8, 2024 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET
Code: 1H0813
This online program is presented on Zoom.
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A shared understanding of history is a core part of national identity. However, we now live in a world where politicians increasingly try to control historical narratives. In countries as disparate as Russia, China, Turkey, Germany, and the United States, legislatures have passed laws about what should be taught in schools. In some countries, there are even laws about what citizens can say about history.

In Russia, criticism of Soviet policy during World War II can land you in prison. In Turkey, recognition of the Ottoman genocide of Armenians in 1915 is illegal and seen as an insult to “Turkishness.” In Germany, it is illegal to deny the Holocaust.

National leaders around the world often rely on certain views of history to support their contemporary policies. Vladimir Putin insists that there has never been a separate Ukrainian nation, making his war on Ukraine justified to reunite the country.

Xi Jinping maintains that Chinese history is characterized by Western attacks and that only the communist party has been, and will be, able to prevent a repeat of them. German leaders argue that they have a special historical responsibility to help protect oppressed groups and to seek peace. 

Hope M. Harrison, a professor of history and international affairs at George Washington University, offers an exploration of how and why world leaders seek to control historical narratives. She also explains why all citizens should develop the skills to critically view political uses of history.

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