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This seminar will set the scene for our series by posing questions about the uses of false assertions and claims in historical contexts.   It will also consider the public understanding of archives.  Questions in this time of often febrile “post-truth” politics and commentary will include: How should or could the archival record have corrected particular conspiracy theories or false beliefs that have taken hold of public imagination?  Why are archives crucial both as part of the scholarly infrastructure and as a trusted source of real evidence in public affairs?   These and other questions will form the basis for remarks by three eminent commentators whose highly distinguished careers cover, between them, journalism and the formation of public policy; writing and teaching scholarly academic and public history; and leading the Archives of the United States. The webinar will open up to questions and comments from a wide-ranging international audience.  

Richard Evans is the renowned historian of the Third Reich, among other topics.  His recent works include  Altered Pasts, Counterfactuals in History (2016) and The Hitler Conspiracies: the Third  Reich and the Paranoid Imagination (2020) and his Leverhulme-funded programme, Conspiracy and Democracy from which it grew. 

David Ferriero as Archivist of the United States and with his life-long experience as a research librarian, will look at the ways in which the archival record can – and cannot --provide a bulwark against false political assertions. He will consider some of the questions inherent in the establishment of US presidential libraries, and can comment on ways in which archives serve the general public. 

Daniel Finkelstein will draw on his intimate knowledge of guiding, as well as commenting on, government policy at the highest level, and he can comment also on the phenomenon of Holocaust denial from the perspective of his own family’s involvement in founding and supporting the Wiener Library.


All welcome, this seminar is free to attend but booking is required.