Pierre Nora

The positivist tradition of nineteenth century history, dominated by the idea of the nation and based on the archive, began in the 1970s to give way to a concern with recent history, in which the historical witness became paramount. With the past ceasing to be a body of knowledge and becoming a public issue, a new form of political influence has exerted itself upon historians. In the French case, the subject of colonialism is particularly controversial. Now more than ever it is crucial historians retain critical distance.