This is a working Paper. It briefly discusses an emerged methodology which Populist and Rightwing Academics at universities in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, United States and, indeed, the entire western universities use as a form of analytical template in place of in-depth analyses of history. The method is what I have called contextualism and its proponents and users I have called Contextualists. The Paper from which this brief working Paper has been extracted argues that Contextualists use contextualism as a method to dictate how certain historical events must be studied. Additionally, the Paper argues that contextualism is internally flawed because of its conflicting arguments.

Contextualists have used contextualism to supersede ‘Political Correctness’ and ‘Revisionism’ and for these Academics contextualism has often been invoked like automation in the rendition of history, particularly the histories of Slavery and Colonialism. Thus, contextualism is a Post-Political Correctness and Post-Revisionism instruments of Rightwing Populism. However, Contextualists have retained their hostility to evidence because although they have shifted position and do not use Political Correctness and Revisionism to stifle discourses and criticisms they still do not validate; they still do not have use for evidence, and they still regard evidence which contradicts their world views as fake and conspiratorial.

In contextualism Contextualists argue that historical events, including the human participants, facilitators and perpetrators of those events, be the events Slavery and Colonialism or otherwise, have no independent existence outside the contexts in which they occurred and that they could not have occurred without the richness of the contexts and therefore they could not be studied and criticised outside the richness of their contexts. In other words, Contextualists argue that the study of, say, the histories of Slavery and Colonialism and their subsisting consequences for the descendants of Slaves and Colonised people in the 21st Century must be carried out, strictly, within the 17th to the 19th Centuries historical contexts in which they occurred. Thus, context which, hitherto, was an obscure defensive mechanism used by errant politicians, caught in their own lies, has been transformed, in the hands of Populist Rightwing Academics, into a cover which is used to inscribe calcified analytical boundaries around what could or could not be thought in history; how they could or could not be thought in history; what to question and what not to question in history, and what questions could or could not be asked in history.

The foregoing means that contextualism is used to prohibit the questioning of past or present human motives because it operates in defence of, for example, racism in the name of free speech, and of Slavery and Colonialism in that it holds that the perpetrators and supporters of these current and historical events are and were the real victims and that those who suffered the consequences of the events are and were not the victims. Here the Contextualists arguments are that Slavery and Colonialism were right and proper at the time, that their perpetrators and supporters did not know any better otherwise they would not have perpetrated them, that their behaviours were right in the historical contexts in which they lived and the events occurred and that those behaviours should not be evaluated against the standard of the 21st Century.  Therefore, Contextualists argue that modern methodologies which argue that by their nature certain historical events must be studied in the present era, using the current state of knowledge, is unfair to Slave owners and Colonialists because it holds them to standards of behaviours which did not exist during their lives.

Therefore, Contextualists use contextualism to sublimate racism and make what would have been seen and challenged as racism three years ago seem commonplace and unchallengeable. The sublimation disallows the humanisation of the victims of Slavery and Colonialism because it prohibits analysts from seeing those victims in the 21st Century but at the same it insists that analysts must see the perpetrators and supporters of Slavery and Colonialism in the 21st Century because they are memorialised in subsisting and humanised landscapes, whereas the Slaves and the victims of Colonialism are still down there – exactly where they were left when Slavery and Colonialism ended. 

Let us exemplify by recalling the recent arguments in the UK. The arguments involved the British Museum and the Museum’s original benefactor, the Physician Hans Sloane. As the Museum reopens following the coronavirus lockdown the Museum moved the bust of Hans Sloane from its pedestal into a glass display cabinet along with historical notes about his involvement in Plantation and Slave ownership in the West Indies and the contributions of those holdings might have made to the funds he used to build the collections which gave birth to the British Museum. The Museum’s Curator did not remove the bust from view or put it into storage, but the mere act of moving it into the glass case with historical notes were enough to provoke the ire of the Contextualists. They criticised the Museum for trying to rewrite British History; for trying to obscure British History, and for its failure to examine the contexts of Sloane’s involvement in Plantations and Slavery in the West Indies before it moved his bust. Underlying the use of contextualism as a critical instrument against the Museum was the Contextualists argument that Sloan’s involvements in Plantation and Slave ownership were indirect because his involvements came through his wife’s inheritance.  In other words, Contextualists argue that though Sloane and many like him were involved in Plantation; owned Slaves, and made profits from them it does not matter; instead what matters are the context and the mode of his involvement within that context. But the fact that Sloane’s indirect involvement did not do anything towards the manumission of the Slave and instead made him a very wealthy Physician.

Racism which underpinned Slavery and Colonialism and which in the 21st Century is their subsisting legacy, with all the ramifications in the 21st Century are still here and they are perpetuated by the inheritors and beneficiaries of those legacies.  And the above example demonstrates how Contextualists have not only used contextualism to prevent challenges to subsisting historical narratives, but also the example shows how it has been used to install analytical boundaries and how Contextualists increasingly use their privileged faculty tenures to promote a preferred version of the historiography of racism, Slavery and Colonialism.

Contextualism is flawed in many ways because, for instance, Contextualists do not realise the absurdity of the universe they inhabit. Because while they fight to preserve the memorialisation of men like Sloane in the 21st they at the same time argue that the study and analyses of the deeds which earned them their heroic status and hence their memorialisation must be kept out of the 21st Century lest the results of the study and analyses tarnish their names and philanthropy.  But this is not the most glaring failing of the Contextualists and contextualism; instead their most glaring failing is that Contextualists plead ignorance on behalf of Racists, Slavers and Colonialists. And in pleading ignorance on their behalf they underpin their pleas by arguing that human motives in, say,  the 17th Century are not the same as human motives in, say, the 21st Century.  Accordingly, to recall the above example, Contextualists are arguing that Sloane, a Physician, and other Plantation and Slave holders like him were ignorance of the fundamental human tenet that people do things which maximises their self-interests and that Plantation and Slave holders did not know that the maximisation of their self-interests included the optimisation of profits from their West Indian Plantation and Slave holding which enabled them to live a comfortable life and help Sloane build his collections which he subsequently bequeathed to the nation.

Thus, it is our argument that Sloane and other Plantation and Slave holders were economically rational, that their economic rationality was not different from the 21st Century economic rationality as a concomitant of the economics of investments in productive capacities, saving and consumption.  In other words, human motives for the accumulation of monetary savings as stores of value, acquisition of goods, including increases in the size of Plantation holdings, the number of Slaves owned, food and warmth, in say the 1700s, are not much different from human motives for food and warmth in 2020, albeit more sophisticated in 2020 than in the 1700s and that, of course, no one now own Slaves, but, essentially, they are still human requirements and people still need incomes, be they incomes from profits or earned incomes, or transfer incomes or otherwise, in order to have food and shelter and the self-aggrandisement which led Sloane to his rapacious methods of collections. 

Thus, we must raise question about how Contextualists use contextualism in contemporary historical analyses to protect and legitimise racism.