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Lecture calls for writing impartial history of Lebanon

[photo]
LAU Assistant Professor Ray Mouawad introduces Dr. Antoine Masarra to the attendees.

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Masarra explains the standards historians should consider when writing history books.

March 19, 2009—

The stories of prominent leaders and clans overshadow those of less-known people and events in most textbooks on Lebanese history, said Dr. Antoine Masarra, Lebanese University professor, during a lecture on LAU’s Beirut campus, March 5.

Students often recall the stories of rulers, but they probably never hear of people such as 18-year-old Wardeh Boutros Ibrahim, who was killed while fighting for union rights in 1946, or soldier Khaled Kahoul, who refused preferential treatment on checkpoints in 1976, Masarra said.

“The problem is that we do not have a history of the people. What we have is a history of our leaders,” said Masarra.

The lecture, entitled “On Writing the History of Lebanon for the Sake of our Memory: A Practical and Comparative Approach,” was organized by LAU’s Humanities Department.

Masarra offered some guidelines that must be followed when writing history. He said historians should simply convey facts instead of analyzing them.

Especially “when writing about sectarian clashes, historians must present the actors, the reasons as well as the costs and benefits,” he said. They should provide students with opposing views and “let them be the judges,” he added.

Also, Masarra said Lebanese history books focused on events in Mount Lebanon and Beirut. He suggested that they should cover incidents in the whole country. This way, the students would be “reading their regions’ names and feeling belonged,” he added.

Based on these perspectives, Masarra and five members of a committee formed by the Ministry of Education in 1997 worked for three years to put together a new history textbook.

The book, which was never published, aimed at teaching students about the country’s wars, their human costs, and the stories of unsung heroes, Masarra explained.

According to him, such an initiative would have been a credible source for students in the process of questioning the historical knowledge acquired from their families. It would have promoted national identity and memory based on the idea of “no victor, no vanquished,” Masarra said.

Lebanese “youth do not have a recollection of past history,” said Masarra. “And societies who have no memory, repeat the past experiences,” he added.


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