Foundational historical myths arestories which refer to the origins of a political unit (usually the state), its territory and its great figures (heroes and martyrs) and their mission. In general, such myths serve two purposes: the legitimation of the power of those at the helm of the state and the construction of a collective identity for their subjects.
The problem is that these myths contain uncorroborated historical facts (including lies and fantasies) and unsubstantiated historical opinions. Historians and others interested in the past were sometimes instrumental in creating or, when they already existed, buttressing these myths. Frequently, however, they criticized and, in some cases, even publicly attacked the unreliable elements of these myths. If they chose the latter path, they did so at great personal risk because undermining these myths equalled the de-legitimation of power and the deconstruction of collective identity.
In his Käte Hamburger Lecture, Antoon De Baets took a triple approach to this problem. First, he looked at some cases of foundational myths. Then, offered an analysis of how historians have exposed them. Finally, looked at the consequences they suffered and concluded the lecture with some general reflections.
Antoon De Baets is professor emeritus of History, Ethics and Human Rights at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. He is the author of many publications, particularly on the censorship of history, the ethics of historians, and the history of human rights. This includes books such as Responsible History (New York / Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2009) and Crimes against History (London: Routledge, 2019). Since 1995, he has coordinated the Network of Concerned Historians.
A full curriculum vitae is at http://www.concernedhistorians.org/va/cv.pdf.
His ORCID is 0000-0002-5734-8193.
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Welcome and Introductory Remarks
PD Dr Nina Schneider
Research Group Leader, Käte Hamburger Kolleg / Centre for Global Cooperation Research, University of Duisburg-Essen
48th Käte Hamburger Lecture
Exposing Myths: A Dangerous Strategy for Historians
Prof. em. Dr. Antoon De Baets, University of Groningen & Network of Concerned Historians
PD Dr Borbala Zsuzsanna Török, University of Vienna, Institute of Austrian Historical Studies, Faculty of Historical and Cultural Studies
Moderator:PD Dr Nina Schneider
Q&A with the Audience
Concluding Remarks and End of the Lecture