Written by the winners
Sarah O’Connor / Silhouette Staff
If you aren’t an Anthropology or History major then you probably haven’t heard the big news over in England.
Last fall, a skeleton was uncovered under a parking lot in Leicester, England. After thorough scientific tests and DNA results the skeleton was discovered to be none other than that of King Richard III. A year-long project, archaeologists continue to examine the body but have also discovered something that will change history.
In William Shakespeare’s play Richard III, King Richard is described with a hunched back and a withered hand. But when uncovering the body, although the skeleton presents scoliosis spinal deformity, the archaeologists didn’t find exactly these descriptions on the skeleton. That leads to one question.
Why did Shakespeare exaggerate?
The answer was discovered quite quickly. During Shakespeare’s time the Tudors were in charge. The Tudors had killed King Richard III in a two-year battle known as the War of the Roses. When Richard III was killed, the Tudors reigned.
And what playwright would dare write anything against royalty? It is concluded that in order to please the Tudors, Shakespeare portrayed Richard III in a negative light with negative characteristics to favour his rulers.
But now we approach much deeper questions. Shakespeare also wrote of King Richard III as a tyrant, a man who murdered his nephews so he would stay king. If Shakespeare lied about his physical appearance, what else of Richard III is a lie?
As my dad told me, “History is written by the winners, not the losers.”
And since all we have are the winner’s stories, we have a biased history. A history in favour of those who won battles or reigned over countries isn’t a truthful history.
So if history (our past) is a lie, then who are we? How do we know that what we’ve grown up believing is the truth? You may be thinking, “But that’s just England, that isn’t Canada. We know our history.” But do we?
Do you remember learning about Residential Schools? The schools that First Nations children were forced to attend that taught them colonial values and forced them to forget their heritage? Do you remember learning about how the Indigenous children were emotionally, physically and sexually abused by their teachers? Do you remember that the residential schools opened in the 1840s and didn’t close until 1996? Were you taught that or did your tenth grade history teacher simply skim over that bit of Canada’s dark past?
Every country has its dark past, but we aren’t proud of it. But does that mean we should hide our heads in the sand, denying what we did, lying to future generations?
If our history is a lie, then who are we? How can we base ourselves on people and incidences that may not have happened or happened in very different ways?