'Zit u dan niet in de gevangenis?' of: hoe erg is geschiedschrijving in opdracht? De Arena. Geschiedschrijving in opdracht
‘Are you not in prison yet?’ or: how much of a minefield is commissioned research?
Historical knowledge can be used for multiple purposes. Consequently, it is hard to make a distinction between studies that criticize government policies and those that support them. Besides, the impact of historical publications on major public debates is usually quite small. However, this should not dissuade historians from carrying out commissioned research which has its origins in a lively public interest in the subject. Otherwise they risk leaving this area wide open to terribles simplificateurs.
Another question is the amount of freedom the researcher is allowed in order to carry out research and present results. The author shows that he experienced more freedom in this respect when he carried out research commissioned by the government than when he carried out research at the request of private interest groups. He also experienced external (efforts at) meddling with his research and publications when carrying out independent research, including threats of judicial prosecution. Independent research is therefore no less problematic than commissioned research. However, the latter may result in the historians’ research agenda disintegrating.
This article is part of the forum 'Geschiedschrijving in opdracht'.
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