David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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History and Theory 38 (1):84–99 (1999)
Everywhere the 1990s have been characterized by an odd mixture of ideological triumphalism-Fukuyama's "end of history" being only the crassest example-and of ideological uncertainty-can there be, should there be, a "third way"? For all its pretensions to universality, the "New World Order" has never lost a fragility in appearance. Students of historiography can scarcely be surprised to learn that an uneasiness over the present and future has in turn frequently entailed uncertainty about the past and particularly about those parts of the past which had seemed most able to give clear and significant "lessons."One evident example is the history of what in my Explaining Auschwitz and Hiroshima I called the "long" Second World War, that is, that crisis in confidence in the relationship between political and economic liberalism and the nation-state which, by the end of 1938, had left only Britain, France, the Low Countries, and Scandinavia as in any sense preserving those "liberal" freedoms which had spread across Europe since 1789. In this article, I briefly review the most recent difficulties World War II combatant societies have had in locating a usable past in the history of those times. However, my major focus is on the specific case of Italy, very much a border state in the Cold War system, and today the political home of an "Olive Tree" and a "Liberty Pole" whose historical antecedents and whose philosophical base for the future are less than limpid. 1990s Italian historians thus give very mixed messages about the Fascist past; these are the messages I describe and decode
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