Quotation of the Week 2

The one duty we own to history is to rewrite it.

(Oscar Wilde. Intentions 1891 ‘The critic as an artist’)

Economic historian and numismatic consultant


  1. By rewriting we ‘re-view’ history, see past events from fresh perspectives. After all, we know the cliche about history being written by the victors, so let’s give the other side a chance. I always found Wilde to be more provocative than flippant. So, by all means, return to the sources and re-write in the hope of a better understanding of our past.

  2. Roberta: ” and re-write in the hope of a better understanding of our past”.

    I would go further (and very likely further than Wilde had in mind): we must re-write in order to make it our own past, to which we in our present and ever-changing state can relate, as distinct from its being a past in which we take a purely antiquarian interest.

    And what is more, Wilde’s words hold out to historians the promise of perpetual employment.

  3. Ah, Richard, now you have it! Perpetual employment! But I would love to know who really ‘listens’ to us.

  4. Well, we do listen to each other. Don’t we?

  5. There is a 1979 movie called “Escape to Athena”, starring Roger Moore, David Niven, and Telly Savalas, among others. In that movie some English archaeologists are held captive in Greece during the German occupation in order to find ancient artefacts for Hitler. So they dig up stuff, show them to the Germans, and then they bury these items again, in order to “rediscover” them later and save their lives, because the Germans are letting them live only as long as they find antiquities. I suggest that historians do something like that in order to ensure “perpetual employment”.

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