“….A movement to censor our history is forming at Australian universities. Students and academics are campaigning for buildings and lecture halls to be renamed because of their association with ‘offensive’ historical figures. They no longer feel comfortable confronting, or even acknowledging, the past— instead, they want to expunge it altogether. Their first target is the renaming of the Richard Berry building at the University of Melbourne.
Richard Berry revolutionised the teaching of anatomy in Melbourne. He wrote the standard anatomy textbook used by students for some twenty-five years. As dean of medicine he advocated for the placement of a hospital near campus that could work closely with the university, a dream that became a reality after his departure. Berry’s contributions to teaching, as well as an administrator, were so outstanding that when a new anatomy building opened, which he designed, it was only natural to name the building after him.
Sadly, despite his capabilities, Berry, along with John Maynard Keynes, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, and Winston Churchill, advocated for the patently racist and discredited eugenics movement of the early 20th century. Eugenicists sought to promote certain genetic traits, and discourage others, by manipulating sexual reproduction. This supposedly scientific theory was used by the Nazis to justify their atrocities.
We must be careful to not project modern ideas, which simply did not exist at the time, onto history. The speed of human progress has led to an extraordinarily rapid change in cultural understandings, political values and scientific theories. The essence of historic analysis is gaining a full understanding of these changes, and the world in which historic figures lived. The alternate, applying today’s values to the past, makes it almost impossible to find any respectable historical figures for admiration or study.
It would require Labor to rename their think-tank, the Evatt Foundation, because Doc Evatt brandished a letter in Parliament from Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov falsely claiming there was no Soviet spying in Australia—a letter written by the same individual who signed the Soviet-Nazi Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Liberals would have to stop celebrating Robert Menzies because, in the height of the Cold War, he advocated for the illiberal policy of banning a political party, the Communist Party of Australia. Americans would have to abandon their constitution and bill of rights because two-thirds of the founding fathers owned slaves…” Dead to History