Revisionism and the Historical Blackout - Henry Elmer Barnes

In this essay, Barnes discusses the manner in which the true history of World War II has been systematically suppressed, and all 'revisionist' historians who contradict the official story are maligned and blacklisted. He discusses the way in which documents are withheld from revisionist authors, how revisionist histories are blacklisted by publishers, and systematically smeared by reviewers. Barnes reports on the discrimination suffered by several respected, 'progressive' historians, who refused to tow the pro-war line, including Charles A. Beard, William H. Chamberlin, and Charles Tansill.

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Revisionism and the Historical Blackout

by Harry Elmer Barnes

"The Rockefeller Foundation and the Council on Foreign Relations intend to prevent, if they can, a repetition of what they call in the vernacular "the debunking journalistic campaign following World War I." Translated into precise English, this means that the Foundation and the Council do not want journalists or any other persons to examine too closely and criticize too freely the official propaganda and official statements relative to "our basic aims and activities" during World War II. In short, they hope that, among other things, the policies and measures of Franklin D. Roosevelt will escape in the coming years the critical analysis, evaluation and exposition that befell the policies and measures of Woodrow Wilson and the Entente Allies after World War I."

[Title Page] from Historical Blackout of Revisionism by Henry Elmer Barnes

"The revisionist search for truth relative to the causes of the second World War is "serious, unfortunate, deplorable."
—Samuel Flagg Bemis,
Journal of Modern History, March, 1947

"One thing ought to be evident to all of us: by our victory over Germany and Japan: no matter what our folly in losing the peace, we have at least survived to confront the second even greater menace of another totalitarian power."
—Samuel Flagg Bemis,
New York Times, October 15,1950

"The folklore of war, of course, begins long before the fighting is done; and, by the time the last smoke has drifted away, this folklore has congealed into a 'truth' of a neolithic hardness.
—Stewart H. Holbrook,
Lost Men of American History , p. 42

[Imprimateur] from Historical Blackout of Revisionism by Henry Elmer Barnes

"America goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standards of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force."
—John Quincy Adams

About The Author

Harry Elmer Barnes was born near Auburn, New York, on June 15, 1889. He attended Port Byron High School and Syracuse University, receiving his A.B. degree from the latter institution summa cum laude in 1913. He received his Ph.D. degree from Columbia University in 1918. While at Columbia he was University Fellow in Historical Sociology and Cutting Travelling Fellow in History. He has taught history and historical sociology at Syracuse University, Barnard College, Columbia University, Clark University, Smith College, Amherst College, Temple University, the University of Colorado, the University of Indiana, and in many university summer schools throughout the country. His most important historical writings are The History of Western Civilization (2 vols., 1935); and An Intellectual and Cultural History of the Western World (1937). Preserved Smith declared that the former is "incontestably the masterpiece of the New History."

Dr. Barnes's chief works in the field of diplomatic history and international relations are The Genesis of the World War (1926); In Quest of Truth and Justice (1928); and World Politics in Modern Civilization (1930). He also edited the important series of six volumes on American Investments Abroad: Studies in American Imperialism (1928-35), sponsored by the American Fund for Public Service.

Of the Genesis, Carl Becker wrote that it was "a marvellously straight, swift, cogent presentation of facts and conclusions," and William L. Langer declared that the facts about the responsibility for the first World War "could not be more successfully presented at the present stage of our historical knowledge."

He took the lead, with the above-mentioned three books and earlier reviews and articles, in arousing popular interest in the causes of the first World War, with the result that the chief authority on the literature of this subject, Dr. George Peabody Gooch, asserted that "No other American scholar has done so much to familiarize his countrymen with the new evidence, and to compel them to revise their wartime judgments in the light of this new material."

In his substantial brochure. The Struggle Against the Historical Blackout, he has once more become the pioneer in directing public attention to the subject of Revisionism, as bearing on the causes of the second World War, and to the great obstacles to the discovery and publication of truth in this field.