There have been times when events and circumstances of the past have been altered or revised to meet the needs of particularly politicians to create illusions that will meet their needs for a variety of reasons.
This may not be all that uncommon, but there have also been times when history was actually destroyed. There have been those who had needs which were so profound that monumental efforts were put forth to destroy vast segments of the past in order to put forth their often nefarious wishes. There have been several noteworthy examples both in ancient times as well as modern examples.
Few individuals in modern history have had the pathological needs as the British King Henry VIII. His long rein was filled with skullduggery the likes of which have never before or since been seen. His long and tedious war against the church of Rome forced him do outlandish things including writing personally to the pope presenting his side of argument in his desire for a divorce.
Through his struggle to convince the British people to accept his wishes regardless, he had to change the collective mind set. He needed to go so far as to present himself as the most powerful and beloved ruler who ever sat on the British thrown. He set about to place himself above the most famous of all the British monarchs, the great and legionary King Arthur.
For centuries, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table were the greatest of paragons of virtue, leaders of all things good and superior in every way, noble fighters for benefit of the realm and the finest leaders of men who ever graced the British Isles.
As a part of his attempt to satisfy his personal needs, he set about to destroy the Catholic Church which opposed him. He abolished the monasteries, confiscated their money and property and sought to wipe out their very existence. Folklore contended that King Arthur and Queen Gwenevere were buried in the grounds of the abbey at Glastonbury . Most of the abbeys suffered physical damage throughout Britain, but particularly harsh treatment was inflicted on Glastonbury and what was believed to be the remains of Arthur to create the illusion that he never existed. This was all done in order to create the belief that Henry was greater than the greatest. He actually set about to destroy history in order to satisfy his own needs.
Mao Zedong founded the new Republic of China in 1949. From that time onward, he set about to totally obliterate as much Chinese history as possible by the actually destroying anything from the literature created during the dynastic system, any art or architecture which represented anything from China’s 5,000 year old past. He attempted to destroy any religious concept which might impede the utilization of his “little red book” which would be the substitution for the Christian bible or the Koran of the Islamic faith.
Museums were destroyed, cultural centers, universities, and anything that would include symbolism of the past which he deplored. Anything that manifested western ideology or western creation not indigenous to contemporary Chinese was prohibited. His belief was that if you could not see it, it never existed.
The Afghan Taliban belief strongly opposed the knowledge or actual existence regarding other religions or philosophies and were believed to be detrimental to their cause. The world stood by in 1999 in disbelief when they set about to destroy manifestations of the religion of others who had lived in their land in the past. They believed that if they could be made to vanish, it would be as if they never existed. The Bamyan Buddhas were seen to be a representation of evil as did anything that was different from their concept of Islam.
Today, we must point out this evidence of the actual destruction of history in order to see what has been done and what is possible. Regardless of what one might believe or even accept what Napoleon did in his military campaigns, his monumental and scientific efforts to both study and preserve the ancient Egyptian civilization must be praised. He believed that destruction of the past is detrimental and counter productive.
Henry VIII was not successful in his attempt to destroy the British belief in King Arthur and replace this valuable folklore with Henry himself. Mao and his destruction of Chinese history failed to accomplish what he intended it to do. The Taliban destruction as seen today tell us the concept of such misguided efforts can still be seen in a world which considers itself to be enlightened and able to use logic in any contemporary task. This is yet another example of the value of the study of history.