European historians are appealing for support in resisting laws that will criminalize historical inquiry. You can find the text of their appeal and a link to an article by Timothy Garton Ash giving some of the context here. From Ash:
Among the ways in which freedom is being chipped away in Europe, one of the less obvious is the legislation of memory. More and more countries have laws saying you must remember and describe this or that historical event in a certain way, sometimes on pain of criminal prosecution if you give the wrong answer. What the wrong answer is depends on where you are. In Switzerland, you get prosecuted for saying that the terrible thing that happened to the Armenians in the last years of the Ottoman empire was not a genocide. In Turkey, you get prosecuted for saying it was. What is state-ordained truth in the Alps is state-ordained falsehood in Anatolia.
I have some quibbles with some of what Ash says elsewhere in his article, which I will discuss in a later post, but I urge our readers to read and sign the appeal, which I reproduce below in English and in Chinese translation.1
为批准布卢瓦呼吁书(Appel de Blois) ，敦请阁下发送电子邮件至contact@lph-asso.fr，署上您的姓名，并写上“read and approved”( 已阅，同意) 。所有人都有权签署呼吁书。学者们请注明所任教的大学，其他人请注明本人住址。
自2005年起，争取历史研究自由(Liberté pour l’Histoire) 一直致力于反对各立法机关采取的将过去治罪的动议，这些立法行动为历史研究设置了愈来愈多的障碍。2007年4月，欧州部长会议采纳的一个框架性决定将这个原本仅限于法国国内的问题变成了一个具有国际影响的问题。这个决定使用无可争议的和必要的反对种族主义和反犹主义的名义，在整个欧盟范围内设置了一些新的罪行，对历史学家设定了与他们的职业要求相违背的禁令。在2008年布卢瓦历史学大会(Historical Encounters) 召开之际，争取历史研究自由邀请阁下批准下列决议：
In order to approve the “Appel de Blois”, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, give your first and last names and write “read and approved”. Everyone is entitled to give its signature. Academics should add their university and others their residency.
Since 2005 Liberté pour l’Histoire has fought against the initiatives of legislative authorities to criminalize the past, thus putting more and more obstacles in the way of historical research. In April 2007, a framework decision of the European Council of Ministers has given an international dimension to a problem that had until then been exclusively French. In the name of the indisputable and necessary suppression of racism and anti-Semitism, this decision established throughout the European Union new crimes that threaten to place on historians prohibitions that are incompatible with their profession. In the context of the Historical Encounters of Blois in 2008 dedicated to “The Europeans”, Liberté pour l’Histoire invites the approval of the following resolution :
Concerned about the retrospective moralization of history and intellectual censure, we call for the mobilization of European historians and for the wisdom of politicians.
History must not be a slave to contemporary politics nor can it be written on the command of competing memories. In a free state, no political authority has the right to define historical truth and to restrain the freedom of the historian with the threat of penal sanctions.
We call on historians to marshal their forces within each of their countries and to create structures similar to our own, and, for the time being, to individually sign the present appeal, to put a stop to this movement toward laws aimed at controlling history memory.
We ask government authorities to recognize that, while they are responsible for the maintenance of the collective memory, they must not establish, by law and for the past, an official truth whose legal application can carry serious consequences for the profession of history and for intellectual liberty in general.
In a democracy, liberty for history is liberty for all.
- Thanks to Wang Xi for his assistance with the translation [↩]