THE United Kingdom’s relationship with history is a darkly fascinating thing to explore. It is educator and deceiver alike; both a warning for the future and a tool used to bolster Britain’s inflated self-identity as a great good in the world.

War, especially, features heavily in the history we choose to mark and remember – though little better exemplifies history’s dual appropriations quite like listening to ‘Lest We Forget’ poppy enthusiasts reeling off the same racist, bigoted rhetoric of the Nazi regime without a moment of self-reflection.

Enter Suella Braverman, pursued by the rest of the Conservative Party.

History, I believe, does hold lessons for us, in its many parallels to contemporary events, but also in its many gaps and discarded perspectives. The empty spaces where stories should be tell a story – not only of the proverbial “winners” who commit their pens to parchment, but of those on the margins whose accounts are missing.

Take for example, William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Published in 1960, Shirer’s account of Adolf Hitler’s bloody rise to infamy was a bestseller across Europe and the United States, even if academic historians were less enthused by the book’s many oversights and misunderstandings.

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Yet despite being regarded as a definitive account of Hitler and the Holocaust, across its 1200 plus pages there is no reference at all to the thousands of gay men branded with a pink triangle, who were sent to concentration camps to be worked to death or to face the gas chambers.

One of the most famous images of Germany’s book burning rallies while in the grip of fascism followed the ransacking of Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institut für Sexualwissenschaft – a non-profit foundation that is regarded as the world’s first trans clinic, and whose pioneering work was lost to the jackboots of the Nazi regime.

A history written by the so-called “winners” is right: in the context of the conflict’s victors and so, too, in their position in society. When the camps were liberated, many gay men continued to face persecution – even from their apparent saviours.

The stories of marginalised groups have always been overlooked in favour of historical mistellings that centre the experiences of dominant cultural practices: of heterosexual, cisgender, wealthy white men above all others. And so we lose the stories of the LGBT victims of the Holocaust, in much the same way that we lost the stories of the black women whose work at NASA was pivotal to successfully landing on the moon, or how Rosalind Franklin’s discovery of the shape of DNA was dismissed in favour of praising Watson and Crick, or how women’s roles in trade union history have been overlooked, or or or… and on we go.

And this historical revisionism fuels further discrimination, becoming the basis for further bias. The lack of visible black women in science becomes justification for the belief that black women are not capable of working in the sciences. The absence of visible gay figures in history becomes justification for the belief that contemporary queer love is a passing fad or, worse, something that can be beaten or coerced out of someone.

It’s why a concerted effort is made, like during this LGBT History Month, not to “make LGBT people feel all special and warm inside” but to rebuild forgotten and suppressed histories where we can – and in doing so to deepen our knowledge of the world and our connections to one another. Those accounts and stories give us a richer understanding of the past, because it shows us that we were always here.

That is a threat to those who would prefer a historical account of the world that justifies the unjust, and washes clean the bloody cost of Empire we have benefited from having been born into. A story of a parallel reality where the Empire was a force for good, and everybody has a rigid place on a hierarchy.

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To others, history poses a threat to their political goals. The recent moral panic around transgender people is driven in part from wilful ignorance around the existence of transgender people, and to all who would fall under our contemporary understanding of such things, throughout history. It’s harder to mimic the “just a fad” anti-gay rhetoric of the 80s and 90s when presented with historical transgender figures like Dora Richter, the first known trans woman to undergo gender affirming surgery over 100 years ago in the care of Magnus Hirschfeld.

Under the Conservative’s anti-union, anti-strike, culture war regime, modern Britain has all the red flags of a collector who is “just really interested in WW2 history” but deals almost exclusively in Nazi paraphernalia.

To learn from history, first we must understand it; and that means fighting against the revisionism that erases the role of trade unions, of working class voices and of marginalised communities in making the world we live in today. Maybe if we did, it would be clearer where the kind of language that describes asylum seekers as a “swarm” and LGBTQ+ people as “predators” inevitably leads to.