Historical Memories in Culture, Politics and the Future

The Making of History and the World to Come

by Rahman Haghighat (Author)
©2014 Monographs 279 Pages


This book is written to satisfy the individual’s desire for intellectual stimulation, to sow in the mind the seed of new ideas, and involve the reader in productive debates. It covers culture, history and the future, raising questions, presenting arguments and engaging the enquirer in reflection. It illustrates the relationship between past history and current social practices, proposing the concept of compartmentalization of behaviour, where history is understood to contribute to why there are so many displaced excesses amongst the English, alongside an ethos of moderation – why, in a country with such high civility, there is hooliganism, why riots in English cities can be particularly violent, why the country has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe, why it lags behind many others in the early diagnosis of cancer – and what can be done about this.
The book also explores what affects us all globally – the making of history, the psychology of dictatorships, the unconscious in history, the development of new democracies, the emerging psychosocial trends in the world to come, the cognitive, emotional and identity-ethos of the evolving century and the «future» of history. Finally, it identifies history’s foundations and the fundamental human tendency which, beyond the class interests of Marx and the search for recognition of Hegel, motivates and perpetuates history itself.

Table Of Contents


I would like to thank Peter Lang International Publishers who assumed all financial responsibility for the publication of this book. The majority of Peter Lang profits from the sale of this book will go to support children and young people in need.

Thanks also go to Pearson Education for generously allowing me to quote a passage from a copyrighted publication without charge. The contribution of other quotes given here in the context of fair use is also thankfully acknowledged.

Special Gratitude is due to my copy editor, Anne Leonard MBE, for her diligent work on the text; my commissioning editor, Alessandra Anzani at Peter Lang, for her successful coordination of the editing stages; my publisher, Lucy Melville, for her meticulousness and flexibility; and to Dr Hilma Starostina of Wessex Deanery, Professor Roland Littlewood of University College London and Professor Philip Schwyzer of the University of Exeter for reviewing and recommending this book.

This book is dedicated to the memory of my sister, Mahine.

Rahman Haghighat

Introduction: Historical Memories in Culture, Identity, Politics, Personality and Future

Once, an eminent professor of History at Oxford University, knowing of my interest in historical memory, asked me the following question: ‘Why do we remember this [historical event] rather than another?’ This is what has puzzled many a historian, anthropologist and psychologist. Why do we have such an abundance of memories of a part of history and much less of another? Lévi-Strauss would have replied that it is the pressure of history, the importance that people intellectually give to an event, which determines the density of its commemoration or amnesia. The correct response is, however, not a simple one as there are other varieties of remembering whose true density we may miss, focusing only on cognitive remembering or forgetting.

Historical memories are not just what we remember in our mind but also what we practice in our daily life or carry in our genome. For example, cultural behaviour may be as much a historical memory we carry of a past event as what we might verbalize as the cognitive memory of that event. We will soon see that when we display a cultural trait originally precipitated in us by a historical event, we are indeed remembering. As such, important historical memories may be omnipresent in our social practices without being cognitively reminisced as memories. They may be indelibly written within us and reincarnated by still other means in our constitution, without our awareness and irrespective of any importance we may have given them. Therefore, before answering the question, one needs to define what remembering means. At the same time, my reply to the question includes and highlights what has been largely missing from historical understanding: the importance of emotions, because we do not reminisce a historical memory or rehearse it in the social theatre unless it has a significant, emotional raison-d’être. ← 1 | 2 →

This book constitutes a truly multidisciplinary effort looking into historical memories from a variety of perspectives: history, anthropology, psychology, evolution, sociology, politics, philosophy and psychoanalysis in order to respond to such enquiries and many more.

For the first time in the study of culture, this work identifies the origin of English reserve as a historical memory and, using a systemic perspective, proposes a new concept, compartmentalization of behaviour in England, which postulates reasons contributing to why the country lags behind many others in early diagnosis and treatment of cancer, why riots in English cities get particularly out of control, why England and Wales have the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe, why England produced the most prolific serial killer doctor in world history, why there are so many healthcare scandals in England, and what can be done about all these issues. These examples and others will illustrate the relationship between past history, on the one hand, and current social issues as their historical memories, on the other, with the concept of compartmentalization of behaviour in England constituting this book’s contribution to the application of psychodynamics to anthropology.

The fabric of English society is rich with variations; however, there are shared patterns which originate from historical memories. These shared patterns configure, to varying extents, social behaviour, and adjust inter-individual relations within implicit cultural assumptions. The origin of English emotional reserve and balanced judgments is still debated in academic circles, cinematic documentaries and popular debates. For the first time, this work identifies the historical origin of English reserve, dating back from momentous events of seventeenth century England rather than just from the effect of news of the French Revolution in the eighteenth century and the promotion of Victorian values, as necessities of the Industrial Revolution, in the nineteenth century. These all culminated in the essence of English behaviour that the book introduces in terms of the polarized compartmentalization of behaviour in individuals and between groups in England.

History is a combination, to varying extents, of historical truths, i.e. events as they happened, and reconstructions of them, i.e., our discourse. This book provides a mental picture of this making of history in a conceptual space, the history workhouse. The imagery captures the multifactorial nature of the ← 2 | 3 → production of history and the multiplicity of raw materials that contribute to generating history. It clarifies the relationships between personal memories, historical memories and historical truths on the one hand and future history on the other. The contribution of historical truth to future history, and its impact on us irrespective of our discourse, is demonstrated by the latest findings from the science of Epigenetics. At the same time, the importance of discourse in history is pointed out with its use, for example, by the British monarchy for ensuring self-preservation and allaying their fear of being deposed (fear of annihilation psychodynamically). The types of discourse deployed by the monarchy include the discourse of historical continuity, discourse of power, discourse of tradition, proletarian discourse and discourse of moderation.

What is presented to the public, a combination of a version of events and their associated academic but also literary, artistic, political and cinematic interpretations, is what affects them as ‘history’. The importance of this ‘history’ in making the future is likely to be more than that history we conscientiously define as ‘the description of what happened in the past as it happened’. Because the visual, virtual and even the wider print culture recruit both the logical and emotional sides of the brain, the type of history they promote is more effective in determining the course of the future. This public’s perception of this history affects them in choices they make, governments they choose, biases they form, aspirations they develop, and actions they take. Therefore, paradoxically this history is likely to contribute more to making future events, i.e., to what modern historians call proper history. The book shows how historical memories persist in the unconscious and how future history can be influenced by these unconscious memories, themselves prompted and shaped by how history is presented to the public, using the examples of Henry V and Joan of Arc. The way their histories are presented along with literary sketches, economic contextualization, psychological interpretation, and even intellectual description as to how these may have influenced people, makes the reader more aware of how thoughts and emotions are captured, challenged or confirmed by the intellectual and emotional discourse these histories communicate even when, in essence, they may offer a good approximation of what happened.

This book is also a journey for the discovery of self through psychoanalytical insight into history while providing examples of the ← 3 | 4 → application of psychodynamics to historical personalities and the role of the unconscious mind in history. History is impersonal until it becomes applicable to ourselves allowing us to reflect on our own personal life stories. In this book, it is the psychoanalytic interpretations of historical events, defence mechanisms of historical characters as well as traces of history in national behaviours that bring these concepts to a personal level, where each of us can observe our self and how history is made, through our conscious and our unconscious, both as ordinary citizens and historical characters.

Many historical memories have arisen from human struggles for liberty from tyrants of the past or modern-day dictators. In history, power is established and justified, among others, by the conscious and unconscious dynamics in historical characters and their discourse. The book explores the psychodynamics of dictatorship vs. democracy as well as the psychological make-up of dictators, their function at the top of the pyramid of oppression, and their motivations, aspirations and tools. These tools include their exploitation of the vulnerabilities and vicissitudes of the human brain. The book also brings together new elements of these vulnerabilities which, I believe, include our brain predisposition to insanity and its emotional/logical duality in addition to vulnerabilities previously accepted to be exploited by dictators, and, exploring how dictators function, it presents, for the first time in psychology, the notion of Coexistence of Overvalued Ideas of People with Delusions of Dictators in the dynamics of dictatorships.

Historical memories can have moral value as past follies and excesses teach us at least self-discipline, prudence and humility. However, our discourse may bypass historical experience because, the past being at times painful, we are not always willing to open our hearts to the truth. All the same, we bear the heritage inside, as its importance, though un-avowed, has marked us. What survives the passage of time without our being aware of it must have been deemed important otherwise the unconscious mind of generations of people would not have retained it. It may be embedded within the deepest layers of our psyche, make us sensitive to what evokes it and sometimes may need to heal. ← 4 | 5 →

The book eventually takes us to the historical memories of traumas in individuals, peoples, and nations, and how to heal the wounds of history. Historical wounds imply an attack on the pride, dignity and self-worth of nations, and, despite all, a great deal can be done to heal them. The healing exercise includes developing awareness of the complexity of history, adjustment of our sense of historical time, ability to release the positive potential of the future, and efforts at shifting the debate from concern with historical errors of specific nations to collective self-consciousness and acknowledgment of universal human vulnerability to error.

A great deal has been written on what people in the past have left to us, as historical memories, and little as to what we as today’s men and women are leaving as historical memories for the future. This raises the issues of responsibility, accountability and control in making history. The book explores the emerging socioeconomic and psychosocial trends in the modern world, the future of new democracies, and the need for fresh values in a final chapter on the future of the world. The future is characterized by a shortage of resources posing to some the shocking question of which lives are worth it, a tendency towards expedient union of countries, an ever-accelerating generation of history, a relentless pursuit of existential human satisfaction, and, in the context of a new-found sense of control afforded by electronic communications, a need to register our civilization in the universe, as a feature of our wish to self-assert and survive. Finally, this book identifies the foundation of history, the fundamental human tendency that, beyond the class interests of Marx, the search for recognition of Hegel or even the resolution of the problem of death, motivates and perpetuates history.

Due to the wide scope of this work, the reference section at the end is not meant to be exhaustive. Well known historical facts are not referenced to a single source while less well known historical evidence used in the arguments are referenced to original sources or manuscripts. The new ideas, or new interpretations, which this book introduces for example those of the compartmentalization of behaviour and conflict avoidance as historical legacies in England, the theory of the existential foundation ← 5 | 6 → of history, the psychodynamics of good behaviour at racecourses, an essay on the psychodynamics of dictatorship, the economic discourse of Henry V, the connection between Joan of Arc and Lady Diana Spencer, some of the aspects of emotional health and social pathology in democracy and dictatorship, new elements of the brain vulnerabilities exploited by dictators, coexistence of the over-valued ideas of a people and the delusion of their dictators, or examples suggesting the presence and the impact of the unconscious mind in history are clearly stated as the contributions of this book. ← 6 | 7 →



A Historical Memory from Old England



ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (January)
intellectual stimulation reflection behaviour hooliganism teenage pregnancy
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2014. 279 pp., 1 b/w fig.

Biographical notes

Rahman Haghighat (Author)

Rahman Haghighat studied language and civilization at the Sorbonne and after completing his medical training at Birmingham and Cambridge, trained as a psychiatrist at University College Hospital and as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist at the Tavistock Clinic, London. He completed a PhD in sociology with special emphasis on social discourse at University College London (UCL), where he worked as a Research Fellow before starting this work.


Title: Historical Memories in Culture, Politics and the Future