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Why study history and WW2

LAURENCE REES: Why should anyone study history in general and this period in particular?

WILLIAM HITCHCOCK: History gives us the tools to understand the world that we live in. It gives us the tools to ask questions and then to develop arguments about what we see around us, so if we’re good historians we’re able to look around us, find evidence, interrogate it and come up with explanations for the way the world works. In this period in particular it is very important that we’re very careful with the history of the Second World War because there are a lot of countervailing pressures against the historian. There are pressures of myth and there are pressures of political manipulation of those who would manipulate the legacy of the Second World War for their own national or personal ends.

So we’ve constantly got to be on the lookout for the way in which the greatness of the Second World War can be turned into a personal or national event. I think that is one of the things historians can do most effectively, push back against the mythmakers and those who manipulate the legacy of the war.