Historians are the embalmers of our political and moral convictions. As soon as historiography begins to take an interest in an issue, we can be certain that it no longer possesses a self-evident presence in our society. Some questions and problems only become objects of history after society has become historically conscious of them. The history of workers boomed in the 1970s, for example, when industrial labour was in the process of disappearing, just as memory and its sites became a mode of inquiry for historians in the 1980s precisely at the moment when lived memory of ‘the age of extremes’ (Eric Hobsbawm) was disappearing together with its last generation.

The issue of human rights has by no means come so far, even if a certain historicizing sobriety has now set in among activists. 1 On the contrary, as I have argued...

Article PDF first page preview

Article PDF first page preview
Article PDF first page preview
You do not currently have access to this article.