Feminine Gender, Past Imperfect

We publish below the winning entry of the 1997 Longman/History Today Essay Prize, answering the question: 'Is 1990s history still too much his-tory and not enough her-story? How far should historians take into account political correctness and past injustices to groups in presenting their versions of the past?'

The great Dutch historian Pieter Geyl once called history 'an argument without end'. It is never a closed book of settled truth but an ongoing debate Historical analysis involves constant re-evaluation of past events and must incorporate new perspectives and insights for heuristic purposes. Here Multiculturalism and the 'Politically Correct' movement were originally presented as a genuine challenge to the conservative status quo in a healthy pluralism, reflecting the historical contribution of women and ethnic minorities. Unfortunately, multicultural thinking and the PC tendency have imposed a false historicism which is even more guilty of distortion than academic curricula of the past. The call for greater pluralism and diversity has, ironically; resulted in a more rigid orthodoxy than existed before. PC seeks to marginalise pivotal historical figures and key events, emphasising egalitarianism and sociological perspective instead. This is history without heroes – and heart.

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