To first deem a revisionist history as “truer” history or not, one must first appreciate the concept of revisionism. A revisionist historian is one who makes an interpretation of the past that challenges orthodox ones, entailing thorough analysis of the evidence whether reinterpreted or new. For too long we have peered through the historical binoculars of European revisionists. Through careful reading I have learned that historians today take a deeper look into what we have been taught and revise information according to new evidence found to paint a more accurate picture of the past. I will argue that revisionist history is a truer history as long as there is continuous re-evaluation of the past and research of new information and evidence.
Unfortunately, revisionist history is often cast in a negative light due to the popular misconception that historians may possibly distort or “rewrite history” and conjure up conspiracies with non-existent or “loose facts” to wrongfully gain some benefit. Historians use numerous research methods to study the past such as written papers, journals, photographs , films , examining artifacts, tools etc. In their efforts to revise history, historians help paint a clear picture of what a particular era was like. American historian and author of “Denying the Holocaust,” Deborah Lipstadt explains that “revisionism entails refinement of existing knowledge about a historical event, rather than denial of the event itself, as refinement comes through the examination of new empirical evidence or a reexamination or reinterpretation of existing evidence (1993).” Ultimately, one should appreciate the fact that revisionism is simply digging a little deeper into the historical facts with the hopes of dispelling myths, finding inconsistencies and making the necessary edits as well as the continuous study of newly emerged information in order to build a truer history. My next point will help recognize how we’ve constantly accepted interpretations of the Spaniards without considering important aspects that revisionists have examined.
An equally significant aspect to consider is that for years throughout Caribbean history early inhabitants of Hispaniola and Jamaica the Tainos were previously referred to as “The Arawaks,” However, Estevez states in his article “Origins of the word Taino” that the name “taíno” is actually interpreted as meaning “good people” or “noble people. (2016.)” Recent studies have shown that this was the name the natives called themselves. Most scholars traced the ancestors of the Tainos to the Amazon basin, where the Arawakan languages developed. This points to the fact that the name “Arawak” was associated with a type of language. All throughout history we were taught to refer to them as the language that they spoke rather than the name they actually called themselves. This is a perfect example of how ongoing research by revisionist re-examine history and pinpoint inconsistencies making the necessary edits which helps paint truer picture of the past rather than by the Spaniards.
Having considered these points, it is appropriate to elucidate the concept of civilization as it relates to the early inhabitants and how it has been misconceived through the subjective views of European historians. Another popular misconception seen throughout Caribbean history was the idea of Carib cannibalism. This idea was advanced by the Spaniards, who labeled themselves as perhaps more intelligent, moral and superior to the indigenous people. This attitude represents standpoint epistemology. The Spanish viewed the natives negatively, forming biases against them and painting a picture of the inhabitants as uncivilized savages. Civilization is a state of human society that is very developed and organized (Oxford 1998). Certainly the original inhabitants displayed some form of civilizations as they possessed societal complexity. They formed villages with agriculture-based economies, for example the cultivation of cassava. They had well-developed systems of culture, language, religion, and fully functional societies with trade and even politics.
Furthermore, editor Gemma Hanndy wrote about Antiguan archaeologist Dr. Reginald Murphy, who through extensive research, has helped to dissect these myths. “We hope to reevaluate those long-held assumptions”. . . “From analyzing their diet we have found no evidence that Caribs ever ate humans. The image of the Caribs as savage cannibals is entirely based on colonial accounts.”(2018). One can therefore see that current research paints a truer history than that which existed years ago.
Indeed, after examining research carried out by authors and archaeologists, I’ve recognized that historical revisionism has made an important contribution to our understanding of Caribbean history and helps maintain the accuracy of our knowledge. When the influence of Eurocentric perspectives whitewashed our history, we eventually moved away from originality and the distorted remains of history started to be accepted as real history. Fortunately, once the untold stories of original inhabitants are continuously revised with research of new information, revisionist history can be seen as a truer or real account of history.
“Civilization” Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. 8th ed. 2018.
Estevez, Jorge. “Origins of the word Taino.” N.p. 2016. Accessed 14 June 2018. www.researchgate.net/publication/296694496_Origins_of_the_word_Taino/.
Handy, Gemma. Archaeologists say early Caribbeans were not ‘savage cannibals’, as colonists wrote. Guardian News and Media Limited, 2018.
Levinson, Nancy. S. Christopher Columbus Voyage to the Unknown. United States: Lodestar Books, 1990.
Lipstadt, Deborah. Denying the Holocaust. N.p, 1993.
Stone, C. Anne. “Origins and genetic legacies of the Caribbean Taino.” 2018. Accessed 14 June 2018. www.pnas.org/content/115/10/2341/.
“What is Historical Revisionism and How Does it Influence History?” Buzzle.com, Inc. 2018. Accessed 4 June. 2018. history plex.com/historical-revisionism-influence-history/.