Home / Articles / History Matters: Past as Prologue in Building Democracy in Iraq
In his Art History After Modernism (Chicago, 2003), the German art historian Hans Belting argues that history is the locus of identity for all societies. Losing a sense of its heritage does great damage to a society and hampers its ability to move into the future. In the Middle East, history—or perhaps more precisely, historical memory—deeply informs the contemporary cultural and political consciousness of its peoples. Without recognizing the significance of the past, who could speak of Zionism, which is linked to the ancient Israelite kingdoms; Pan-Arabism, grounded as it is in the glories of the Meccan, Umayyad, and Abbasid empires; or Saddam Hussein’s efforts to link his rule to the Babylonian kings, Nebuchadnezzar and Hammurabi?