Since the 1970s, the dominant voices within academic history have worked to generate a widespread cynicism about the nature of Western democracies, with the aim of questioning their moral and political legitimacy. In the United States, the most dramatic manifestation of this occurred in 1992. That year, the quincentenary of the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus became the occasion of an extraordinary outpouring of moral outrage. In book after book, the European discovery and settlement was denounced by many academics as one of the greatest calamities to have befallen not only the native Americans but the human species as a whole and, indeed, the planet itself. In American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World, the American academic historian David Stannard accused Columbus of starting a process of unprecedented human destruction. He wrote: “The road to Auschwitz led straight through the heart of the...


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