Previous posts in this discussion:
PostHitler's Catholicism (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 02/11/18 10:44 am)
Regarding the interesting WAIS discussion on the turning points of WWII, two things came to mind:
Besides our inflection point discussion, what would be the "tipping point" of the war? How many were there?
Second, was Hitler a Catholic? In fact he might have been in 1937, as this little-known picture shows him coming out of church in an apparently pious, merciful and humble attitude.
JE comments: Is it possible to grasp "merciful" from a photograph? Does anyone know the backstory of this image? I would guess it was staged. Note the cross emerging, conveniently, from the Fuhrer's head.
I've found sources that place the photo at the Marine church in Wilhelmshaven. John Heelan has studied the history of photography. John?
Hitler's Catholicism and Hitler's Pope
(José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela
02/14/18 3:05 AM)
In commenting on a photo of Hitler coming out of a Catholic church in Wilhelmshaven, John E asked me on February 11th, "Is it possible to grasp 'merciful' from a photograph?"
Of course, my statement about Hitler's "apparently pious, merciful and humble attitude" was purely sarcastic. It is obvious he was not humble or merciful for the matter.
On another topic, I respect Ángel Viña's reputation as a historian. However, sometimes his comments do not seem to be objective when referring the Spanish war and its protagonists. When Ángel sarcastically mentioned (11 February) the "splendid examples of the fervor of Ecclesia militante" in Spain during or after the Civil War, he might be right, but he might also have mentioned examples of the thousands of fervent crimes and assassinations of "bad priests, nuns or Catholic believers" by some Republican factions and infamous figures of the Spanish war and around the world in the 20th century.
The previous comment makes me think of another reflection. There are plenty of documents showing the intimate relation and complicity between the Catholic Church and the Nazi and Franco regimes; that is evident. I remember a book, El papa de Hitler (Hitler's Pope), by John Cornwell (1999), in which Pope Pius XII is shown to be directly responsible for being a passive and indifferent accomplice of the Nazi regime.
I suppose this was not the first time a religious ideology has merged with a political ideology in order to achieve their respective supremacy. I am thinking, for instance, of the roles of the Catholic church and the monarchies in the Middle Ages in the Western world, or the current Islamic regimes in which political and legal norms are intimately fused with religious beliefs.
In this regard, the modern concept of the secular state in most advanced societies, with no specific religious denominations, seems to be preferable, although many philosophers argue that a balanced fusion between religious morality, concerning personal rules of good and bad, and secular ethics, the legal differentiation of right and wrong, is always necessary. Otherwise, an eventual moral relaxation, laxity or decadency of society may occur.
JE comments: Institutional religion fused with political ideology: hasn't this been the rule of civilization since, well, civilization itself? The secular state of the last two centuries is just a blip on history's radar.
We've determined many times on WAIS that both sides carried out atrocities during the Spanish Civil War, although the Francoist forces certainly "won" the body count. In any case, Ángel Viñas was addressing only the topic of killings carried out under the banner of Catholicism.
Is Historical Objectivity Possible?
(Nigel Jones, UK
02/15/18 4:21 AM)
José Ignacio Soler's post of February 14th raises an important and interesting question--viz. How far it is possible for historians to be "objective" in their interpretation of historic events?
I agree with José that Ángel Viñas and other WAIS posters on the Spanish Civil War are very keen to point out the iniquities of the Nationalists and the subsequent crimes of the Franco regime, but are far less vocal, if not completely silent, on the equivalent crimes of the Republic.
I recall no discussions on WAIS on the mass killing of clergy which José Ignacio cites, nor on the Paracuellos massacres in Madrid, in which between 1,000-4,000 Madrid citizens were slaughtered in a crime against humanity for which the evil Communist Santiago Carrillo was at least partly responsible.
Nor have I read much discussion about the Stalinist takeover of the Republic, against which Colonel Casado successfully revolted in Madrid in March 1939, nor any acknowledgement of the obvious fact that a Stalinist Spain would have been at least as murderous and oppressive as the Franco regime.
I would respectfully suggest that all this implies that pure objectivity in historical inquiry is impossible. However much we pretend otherwise, we are all prisoners of our political and other prejudices, and we should have the honesty to admit that fact, so that our books, articles etc. can be read with the appropriate health warning.
JE comments: I entered Paracuellos in the WAIS search engine, and came up with 32 hits. Most pointedly, Ángel Viñas specifically mentioned the "dark sides of the Republic" (including Paracuellos) his 2007 announcement of the second book of his Civil War trilogy, El escudo de la República. WAISer Boris Volodarsky has also published an entire book on Alexander Orlov, the Soviet agent largely responsible for Paracuellos.
I do agree with Nigel Jones about historical objectivity being an illusion. Might the only solution be the "health warning" Nigel proposes? Should there be a "solution"? Often, the most readable and memorable works of history are those with a strong narrative thesis.
Historical Objectivity and the Dark Sides of the Spanish Republic
(Angel Vinas, Belgium
02/16/18 4:18 AM)
I reply with alacrity to Nigel Jones's comments (February 15th) about my work and the iniquities carried out in Republican territory during the Spanish Civil War.
As any other historian, I choose the subjects I wish to investigate. Republican violence and subservience to Moscow diktats are two subjects pro-Franco historiography has emphasized since 1936. It goes on and on and on doing the same. Attempts to provide a less Manichaean approach were made by foreign scholars, whose work was generally prohibited in Franco's Spain.
Let me illustrate, if I may use this expression, Nigel:
1) Francoist and Republican violence have become the most vibrant chapters in today's Spanish historiography. Two directions are apparent. The most substantive deals with the former, totally obscured or ignored during the Franco years. The second tries to change the Francoist focus and interpretation. Paul Preston´s book on The Spanish Holocaust provides an excellent synthesis.
2) I devoted a whole chapter to Paracuellos in my book El escudo de la República, and squarely put the blame on Communist and Anarchist motivations. I haven't exonerated other political forces. By the way, Nigel should check his sources. Although there is a discussion about the number of victims at Paracuellos, 4000 is--literally--a bloody exaggeration.
3) El escudo is part of a whole tetralogy (the last volume written with Fernando Hernández Sánchez). Therein I have dealt with the SCW in its European frame. Pride of place was given to the relationship with the USSR. I based my argument on Soviet, British, French, German, and Spanish (both Francoist and Republican) materials directly out of the relevant public and occasionally private archives. I don't know any other author, Spanish or foreign, who has based his argument on such a variety of sources.
4) The last volume, El desplome de la República, [The Collapse of the Republic] deals with the alleged Stalinist attempt which Col. Casado´s coup was supposed to prevent. It's solidly based on Communist material, both Soviet and Spanish, critically examined and contextualized. Col. Casado was a liar and fell victim of a clever plot designed by Franco. My guess is that British Intelligence had a hand in providing help to Casado in writing his fallacious memoirs.
5) Since I´m ready to acknowledge my faults and Unzulänglichkeiten, I see no reason to proceed otherwise with other historians who are more indebted to their own ideologies than to a never-ending search for a true-to-document reconstruction of the past. Since in much of the English-language historiography on the SCW anticommunism is de rigueur, Nigel won't be surprised if some well-known English-language historians have been criticized in my work.
6) I´m a bit surprised at Nigel´s counterfactual conclusion. We objectively know how murderous the Franco side was in the Civil War and how murderous the Franco regime remained, in particular in the 1940s. Facts are facts. We also objectively know that the period of Republican repression which no author I know has ever denied was limited in time. Once the Government´s authority was restored, repression was channeled through the proper judicial instances. I take advantage of this occasion to recommend that Nigel not miss the forthcoming book by José Luis Martín Ramos, Guerra y revolución en Cataluña, given that in Catalonia the "red terror" was displayed a bit longer.
7) In general, I would recommend that WAISers see Hispania Nova, Nº 1 Extraordinario. Año 2015:
It contains an overview of many of the myths propagated about Franco and Francoism by a couple of US/Spanish authors claiming to have written an objective biography of Franco.
Although I´m rather busy promoting my new book on the first murder by Franco, and writing complementary posts in my blog (www.angelvinas.es) I´m more than happy to answer any questions arising out of the present message. Only the Lord knows the truth...
JE comments: Best of success with your latest, Ángel! You are a seasoned veteran of the book road show, but it still must be exciting every time.
Here's today's German lesson: Unzulänglichkeiten: inadequacies. They (inadequacies) sound much more impressive in German.
- A "Stalinist Spain" Was Never a Possibility (Paul Preston, UK 02/17/18 5:45 AM)
The Spanish Civil War is an incredibly complicated subject with a bibliography of around 30,000 titles, the mastery of which requires years of specialisation. Nevertheless, the Spanish Civil War is a subject on which people who have read the flimsiest smattering of this bibliography, let alone done any archival work, feel entitled to make categorical statements.
In the present debate, the position of José Ignacio Soler and Nigel Jones (15 February) is that "Ángel Viñas and other WAIS posters on the Spanish Civil War are very keen to point out the iniquities of the Nationalists and the subsequent crimes of the Franco regime, but are far less vocal, if not completely silent, on the equivalent crimes of the Republic."
To begin with, that is a far from value-free statement. It is possible to talk of the "the iniquities of the Nationalists and the subsequent crimes of the Franco regime" precisely because the atrocities committed during the war and after were deliberate instruments of Francoist policy. It is not possible to talk of "the equivalent crimes of the Republic," because there were none, in the sense of "deliberate instruments of policy."
Of course, there were crimes committed within the Republic by anarchists, common criminals, Socialists and Communists. They amounted to around one-third of the number of crimes committed by the Francoists. I deal with this in considerable detail in my book The Spanish Holocaust, which I think Nigel has read. I have also written an intensely critical biography of Santiago Carrillo, the leader for decades of the Spanish Communist Party. In all my work, I have tried to see the good and bad on both sides, but overall doing so makes me as critical of Franco as their research has made colleagues like Ian Kershaw or Richard Evans critical of Hitler.
Nigel writes: "Nor have I read much discussion about the Stalinist takeover of the Republic, against which Colonel Casado successfully revolted in Madrid in March 1939, nor any acknowledgement of the obvious fact that a Stalinist Spain would have been at least as murderous and oppressive as the Franco regime." I cannot remember every contribution I have made to WAIS over the years. I may be mistaken, but I thought that I had written something on WAIS about Casado. I have certainly written a book about his activities: The Last Days of the Spanish Republic (2016), in which I demonstrate that he was a Francoist fifth-columnist who betrayed his many anti-Communist allies. It is not in fact the case that there was a "Stalinist takeover of the Republic," and what motivated Casado was to secure his own future after Franco's inevitable victory.
Nigel is absolutely right that "a Stalinist Spain would have been at least as murderous and oppressive as the Franco regime." However, to suggest that "a Stalinist Spain" might have existed is completely counter-factual. The only way that the Republic could have won the war would have been if British and French policy had been different and had supported the democratic Republic's rights at international law to defend itself. If that had been done, the Republic would never have had to turn to Moscow for aid and Stalin could have avoided the embarrassment of having to provide it and concentrate instead on fostering his alliance with France.
JE comments: The most detailed post on the Casado coup in the WAIS archives is from Ángel Viñas, 2013:
As far back as 2006, Paul Preston asked this simple question: if the Spanish Republic was in the hands (or nearly in the hands) of the Stalinists, why was Casado able to overthrow it in three days?
(So glad to hear from Paul for the first time in 2018. All the best to you, Paul, for a healthy and productive year.)
Thoughts on the Counterfactual of a "Stalinist Spain"
(Boris Volodarsky, Austria
02/18/18 7:21 AM)
Returning to Nigel Jones's post on the Spanish Civil War (15 February), it hardly makes sense to try to add anything after Paul Preston's excellent comment of the 17th.
Indeed, in all Paul's books, especially those written in the past ten years or so, such as The Spanish Holocaust (2012), The Last Stalinist (2014), The Last Days of the Spanish Republic (2016) and the new updated edition of The Spanish Civil War (2016), the author seeks to present a very balanced picture, taking into account all possible pros and contras and typically trying "to see the good and bad on both sides."
In my own books El caso Orlov (Barcelona, 2013) and Stalin's Agent (Oxford, 2015), I hardly even mention Franco's repression. Rather, I fully concentrate on the activities of the Soviet side both in Moscow and in Spain in relation to the war. With facts and plenty of archival documents, I show that there had never been "Stalinist takeover of the Republic" and, what is more important, no "Stalinisation of Spain" was even possible for a variety of reasons.
Thus, we are coming to the next important issue raised by Nigel, whether "a Stalinist Spain would have been at least as murderous and oppressive as the Franco regime." To this question, unlike Paul, I would say, "I do not know but doubt it very much." But, as Paul correctly notes, to suggest that "a Stalinist Spain" might have existed is completely counterfactual and any speculation about what it would have been is counterproductive. First of all, the fact is there was no Stalinist Spain before or during the SCW. Another fact is that all so-called communist countries were different. If we take Bulgaria, East Germany, Albania and Yugoslavia even before Stalin's death, we shall see that they were all authoritarian with a strong ideological commitment but hardly "as murderous and oppressive as the Franco regime." We can probably compare Hitler's Germany and Stalin's USSR before 22 June 1941, but after Khrushchev succeeded Stalin as the leader of the Soviet Union, one can certainly not call the Soviet regime murderous and oppressive, despite all its drawbacks and excesses.
Now from past to present, on 1 March there's a seminar at the LSE's Cañada Blanch Centre, "Spaniards in the NKVD and the murder of Trotsky: A Reassessment" with Paul Preston and yours truly. Nigel Jones confirmed that he would also attend. It will be interesting to continue our discussion there.
JE comments: A WAIS mini-summit on a fascinating topic. I know the conversation will be lively. Boris, Nigel, Paul: please send a report.
Post Unpublished - please check back later
- Historical Objectivity Again...and a Difficult Choice (Nigel Jones, UK 02/21/18 10:52 AM)
I am genuinely grateful to Ángel Viñas and Paul Preston for their thorough and honest answers to my query on whether historical objectivity is possible, particularly relating to the Spanish Civil War.
I respect the work of these two preeminent historians of the Spanish Civil War enormously, and in Paul's case I think I have read and profited from all his books on the subject.
Notwithstanding all that, I stick to my beliefs that the Spanish Republic in 1936 was in a state of intolerable violence and murderous anarchy--in which, for example, the leader of the Parliamentary opposition was hauled from his bed by Government police agents and murdered--and that the Army was fully justified in rising to restore order.
Spain's tragedy, in my view, was that the rising was only half successful. This led to brutal and bloody civil war in which the two sides were obliged to seek support from the twin totalitarian ideologies: Soviet Communism on one hand, and Fascism and Nazism on the other.
This resulted inevitably in the Nationalists taking on a Fascist character, and the Republic falling under the sway of Stalinism.
I know that Colonel Casado's coup is anathema to the Left, but he did not act alone: he was supported by moderate Socialists and Anarchists, both of whom saw clearly that the Stalinists had taken over the key positions in what remained of the Republic.
If Casado was a Franco agent, as Ángel alleges, surely he would have been rewarded for his efforts by the Generalissimo? Instead of a Dukedom however, he went into voluntary exile in Venezuela for two decades, only returning to Spain in 1961.
But returning to my original question, the answers given by both Paul and Angel confirm my original suspicion: that historical objectivity is impossible, and that the work of historians is inevitably informed by their own prejudices.
I certainly do not except myself from this judgement. I am a small-c conservative and loathe both Fascism and Communism. But if asked to choose whether I would have preferred to live in Francoist Spain or Stalinist eastern Europe, having experienced both societies in the 1970s, I would unhesitatingly have plumped for the former. It is, to coin a phrase, a no-brainer. Fortunately I did not have to make that choice.
JE comments: Franco's Spain, from the 1960s, was a more amusing place than the grim and dour Socialist East Bloc, but this perhaps has less to do with politics than with culture and geography. Would anyone in WAISworld pick, say, East Germany over Francoist Spain?
There Was No Danger of a Stalinist Spain
(Carmen Negrin, France
02/23/18 2:53 AM)
Obviously it is for Paul Preston and Ángel Viñas to respond again to Nigel Jones (21 February) if they so wish, but I will add my little grain of salt.
We are talking here about objectivity.
Nigel says that today, retrospectively, he still prefers Franco's Spain to a supposed Stalinist Republic.
I would point out that Mola had spelled out very early and very clearly his concept of an ideal fascist Spain, before the coup. His texts are historical objective facts.
Yagüe, Quiepo de Llano, and Franco's lust for murder was also very clear before the coup. After 1934, Franco in particular was sent as far away as possible from the mainland. This is also a historical fact.
I find it difficult to believe that any civilized person could approve today of the doings of such a group of persons and, even more so, pretend that they could or, worse, did bring law and order. I was going to make a comparison with Trump, but I will skip that.
As for the Stalinist side of the Republic, we have already been through this several times, so I will only reiterate that, from my personal knowledge of a number of its Republican leader(s), there was no risk that Spain would ever become Stalinist in their hands. This was of course a very useful and recurrent argument used by Franco and his followers, but it remains a hypothesis.
Stalin became an ally of the Republic, just like he did of the USA during WWII, and that didn't put the US at risk of Stalinism. De Gaulle had communists in his government but was never accused of being Stalinist or falling in the hands of the PCF.
It is easy to criticize obvious dramatic excesses such as Paracuellos (which was not in line with the government's instructions--another fact) and to omit Sevilla, Bilbao, la Carretera de Málaga, Guernica and so on; on the Republican side law and order was installed (dans la mesure du possible), in the midst of the war and in spite of it, at a relatively early stage (1937), while murder, including of civilians, was encouraged on the rebel side, before, during and long after the war.
Paul's book, The Spanish Holocaust, provides numbers in as much as they are available (facts). Talking about Sotelo and omitting the fact that the Falangistas did everything in their power to provoke disorder prior to the war is not objective history.
It is also a fact that Franco got the support of Mussolini before the war, as well as of Hitler from the very beginning. Without their help, the coup could not have taken place or succeeded. It is also a fact that the Russians (Soviets) didn't get involved until much later and in a very different proportion. Moreover, this only happened because of the so-called Non-Intervention of the Democrat nations (facts).
Had the French, or the British or the Americans, helped the democratically elected and legal government, the USSR would not have been in the picture: I would say that the "democratic" non-intervention was totally unfair, cynical, etc., but it is an objective fact that it was simply unbalanced and benefited the rebels.
As far as Casado was concerned, Ángel or Paul can of course say much more than I can, but I will only recall that as Nigel says, he returned to Spain before the amnesties and "with blood on his hands," since he was a republican military and yet nothing happened to him (fact). This is not bad, considering that he envisaged Franco's post and that Franco did not appreciate sharing power. Casado probably got his military pension back before all the others had it reinstated.
The moderate Socialists joining Casado were in particular Besteiro who was very ill, against the war from the beginning, and ended up simply being a traitor like Casado and quite a few others.
The main problem of the Republic was the lack of solidarity and foresight of too many of their leaders, including Azaña and Prieto. But it was also a lack of foresight, selfishness, and fear of Hitler from the part of the Democratic countries.
The omission of facts is also a lack of objectivity.
Last but not least, of course Franco's Spain was a much jollier place to be in--for some--in particular for the tourists who could get wonderful service at wonderful prices! For others, there was fear, censorship or happy ignorance. For instance, not even knowing that they had been stolen from murdered parents to be given away or sold to some infertile fascist.
Spain is still impregnated by national-Catholic Francoism, and is a country where privileges are still part of the normal. The recent burial of the daughter of Franco is a mere example. She was buried inside a church (forbidden since 1983 by the Vatican) and in the city (forbidden since Carlos III). None of this bothered or bothers Spain's neighbors, as long as they can still go and enjoy the monuments and the sun or make interesting investments.
JE comments: Saved from Stalinism (and its New World corollary, Saved from Castroism) has justified many a right-wing coup. It would be interesting to assemble a list. Franco must have been the first, as Stalinism was still in its relative infancy in 1936. To this we should add Chile in 1973, Argentina in '76, Indonesia in '65...
Carmen Negrín literally grew up with this history, and adds a valuable perspective to our discussion. A question: from what we know of the Soviet perspective, did Stalin ever express an interest in the Stalinization of Spain?
- Historical Objectivity and Historical Impartiality; The Raj (Angel Vinas, Belgium 02/17/18 6:32 AM)
I am always delighted in trying to give an answer to Nigel Jones´s questions to me, but I now realise that, lost in the Spanish Civil War labyrinth, I never attempted to reply to his general question of February 15th:
How far is it possible for historians to be "objective" in their interpretations?
My own answer is that one should be strictly clear about the all-important distinction between objectivity and impartiality.
Objectivity means for me: 1) applying rigorous methods of analysis, contextualisation and criticism to all kinds of evidence bearing on the subject of research; 2) impartiality has a moral connotation. It doesn't mean not taking sides, because one cannot for instance equalise democracy and dictatorship. Impartiality implies the need for the historian to be clear about his/her position and acknowledging it freely vis-à-vis his/her readers.
History writing always depends on perspectives conditioned by circumstances such as class, philosophy, ideology, nationality, time of writing, and the societal environment in which he/she is active. What present historians write today will certainly differ from what other historians will write in the future. History is always a selective reconstruction of the past and by definition a dynamic process.
I have looked for Nigel´s name in the British Library catalog and found seven or eight books dealing with English and German subjects basically. The same applies to articles (many in The Spectator, which brings hard Tory resonances to my untutored mind). In Mr Google´s precious search engine there are many references under "Nigel Jones+Spain" to historical and ornithological tours, and two reviews of English/American books dealing with Spanish matters. I gladly assume that Nigel knows a lot about Spain although without any widely recognisable research or academic credentials on the country.
I would like to invite Nigel to illuminate WAISers about a topic which has recently (Brexit obliging) come to the fore. What is his take about the history of the Raj? What does he think of the work of some distinguished British historians such as Niall Ferguson or Lawrence James? My understanding is that their books, for instance, Empire or Raj respectively, have sold very well. However, they have also found an number of critics. Since the Raj crumbled seventy years ago, British historians have now been able to write objectively and dispassionately about it. Not to speak of the long-past days of the East India Company in the 18th and 19th centuries. What is the outcome of all those efforts in Nigel´s opinion?
My view is that the Raj provides a unique possibility of comparison between the historical record for the British empire and, for instance, the Spanish one. As a way of marking time until I devise a new project, I´m reading a bit about British contributions to empire-building, because I´m curious about the direction the Brexit discussion in the UK is taking.
JE comments: Yes, this would be a fresh new WAIS topic--and one (always welcome) that could teach me a lot.
Ángel Viñas sees comparisons between Spanish colonization in the New World and the British empire in India. Typically the compare/contrast exercise is between the Anglo "North" and the Spanish "South" America. But might India, with the superposition of a European hegemon upon a complex and sophisticated society, be a more apt analogy for Spain and the Aztecs, Incas, Mayans, etc?
An Appraisal of the Raj: British Imperialism in India
(Nigel Jones, UK
02/19/18 3:17 AM)
Thanks again to Ángel Viñas (18 February) for his questions on my views of the British Empire and the Raj.
Ángel is also curious about my Spanish connections, which I will endeavour to answer first.
I first became aware of the Spanish Civil War at age 11, when I read Hugh Thomas's classic history. After that I read anything on the subject that I could get my hands on (in English) and also made my first trips to Spain in my teens. I particularly remember Fraser's Blood of Spain, accounts of the Alcázar siege, Gerald Brenan's books and Ian Gibson's work on Lorca.
I was especially drawn to the latter, as my mother had a holiday home in Almuñécar and I was able to explore the 'Lorca country' around Granada on foot. In fact, my mother died and is buried there. That is why I was drawn to Spain, but no more so than other European countries where I also have strong personal links: France, Germany, Austria and Italy.
Ángel is correct in surmising that I am not academically qualified or tenured. I am that dangerous beast: an autodidact!
As to my views on the British Empire in India. I have to say at the outset that this is not a subject that I am particularly expert in, as my focus has chiefly been on Europe. I suppose that I am fascinated that this small maritime country was able to impose domination over a diverse sub-continent through at first the East India Company, and then after the "Indian Mutiny" of the 1850s via direct rule.
Like Hitler, who adored the movie Lives of a Bengal Lancer, I am astonished (he was envious) that the Raj was successfully maintained for so long with relatively few troops by policies of divide and rule. It may not be PC to say so, but I am also proud of the positive aspects of the Raj: Railways, Parliamentary democracy, the English language, abolition of suttee...and of course cricket. Imperialism is wrong in principle, but in comparison with others, British rule was pretty benign. It would be difficult to maintain, for example, that the lives of Africans in former British-ruled states there such as Nigeria are better in quality today than they were under British rule when they clearly are not. Which is not the same as saying that we had any right to be there in the first place!
Of the two historians that Angel mentions, Lawrence James and Niall Ferguson, I have read their works and have also met them, though I don't know them well. James is an Englishman resident in Scotland, and Ferguson is a native Scot now teaching at Harvard. Both are Tory Unionists (i.e., they oppose Scottish independence); James is an embittered Remainer on Brexit; while Ferguson (who is an opportunist) was a Remainer and is now a Brexiteer! James is a more solid historian, and Ferguson a more adventurous one who likes to draw attention by embracing eye-catching (but sometimes incorrect) ideas which he writes about brilliantly.
Two other contemporary British historians of India who should be mentioned are William Dalrymple and Patrick French. Both are lapsed Catholics who seem to have sought compensation for their lost Faith by "going native" in India where they both live. They haven't much good to say for the Raj, but if it wasn't for the legacy of Empire I doubt that either would live there cheaply with Indian servants as they do!
The main legacy of the Raj for Britain today is the increasing demographic minority of Britons in the UK who themselves are immigrants from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, or are the children and grandchildren of such migrants. They are the reason why fish and chips have been replaced as England's favourite national dish by chicken tikka marsala.
Finally, if I can correct Ángel on one tiny English cultural detail. The Spectator magazine where I once worked and still contribute, is far from High Tory as he thinks. It is mildly conservative, but of a very liberal hue, and welcomes regular writers of all political shades. In my humble opinion it is far and away the best political and cultural weekly around. The nearest US equivalent, I suppose, would be The New Yorker.
JE comments: It doesn't sound PC, but I'd be interested in a WAIS discussion on "going native." It's a fascinating concept, evocative of Conrad's Kurtz, and strikes me as a singularly British invention. (Kurtz was a mixture of French, English, and I believe Austrian, but bear with me.) "Going native" is a form of assimilation, but the suggestion is that the latter is a good thing, practiced by immigrants from less fortunate lands.
There were many examples of "going native" during the Spanish colonization of the Americas, most notably Gonzalo Guerrero, who lived among the Mayans and became a military leader against the Spaniards, and the 16th-century castaway Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, who wandered eight years around "Florida" (really Texas), and became the first European to write a book about the lands of the present-day United States.
"Going Native" Throughout History
(Tor Guimaraes, USA
02/22/18 4:15 AM)
I am sure this concept of "going native" is not "a singularly British invention," as JE wrote. (See Nigel Jones, February 19th.)
Probably it is universal and started a long time ago. Is it not what David did when he lived and worked with Pharaoh? How about Marco Polo and Kublai Khan?
Also I don't care if it is PC or not, but a good friend and research partner of mine use to tell everyone that "Tor is very funny, because everywhere (country) we went, within a week or so he would start looking like the natives." He was probably right, because the beauty of traveling the world is to learn and absorb the good local customs, their ways of living, etc. It makes the experience much richer.
Many times the situation gets difficult. For example, in my visits to China I always "went native" with my Chinese friends and partners. However, the government used to frown on close relations between locals and foreigners. The government wanted to control you, know where you were, so they would give me a chauffeured car and a guide whenever I wanted to go somewhere. So the first step to going native had to be to evade the offer for a variety of reasons and "stay home."
JE comments: "Going native" in just one week has to be a record! But is the quest for authentic cultural experiences when traveling the same as going native? The latter suggests a loss of identity, or the embrace of a new, hybrid one. Many WAISers reside in a country other than their homeland, including Tor Guimaraes (born in Brazil). Tor, would you say you've "gone native" in Tennessee?
- Historical Objectivity Again (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 02/19/18 12:36 PM)
I could not agree more with Nigel Jones in his post of February 15th, that "pure objectivity in historical inquiry is impossible."
In fact, this very same subject was tackled approximately one year ago when I was questioned by Ángel Viñas and Carmen Negrín about the credibility of a book because it was written by supposedly "rightist" authors.
I responded at the time that "I do not believe that historians should be free of doctrines, ideologies, or intellectual bias... to interpret historical facts." I added that "in principle, this personal burden should not necessarily disqualify any historian's work."
John E accurately remarked that "the most honest approach... for a historian... is to state explicitly one's political beliefs." This is pretty much the same as Nigel Jones's call to "honestly admit this fact."
JE comments: Aren't we all on the same page here? Recall Ángel Viñas's distinction between historical objectivity and historical impartiality. Can we go further, and argue that partiality is convincing (and not hollow ideology) only when it contains a degree of objectivity?
- Historical Objectivity Again (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 02/19/18 12:36 PM)
- "Going Native" Throughout History (Tor Guimaraes, USA 02/22/18 4:15 AM)
- Historical Objectivity and Historical Impartiality; The Raj (Angel Vinas, Belgium 02/17/18 6:32 AM)
- Post Unpublished - please check back later
- A "Stalinist Spain" Was Never a Possibility (Paul Preston, UK 02/17/18 5:45 AM)
- Historical Objectivity and the Dark Sides of the Spanish Republic (Angel Vinas, Belgium 02/16/18 4:18 AM)
- Is Historical Objectivity Possible? (Nigel Jones, UK 02/15/18 4:21 AM)