The Negation of true Science

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Berlin · 2016  Uwe Topper topper

"The negation of true science" - a new form of controversy concerning the critics of history and chronology

Comments on a book by A. García Sanjuán, 2013

"Negacionismo" - Spanish for negation, denial, is the new slogan with which the official historiography attacks critics in order to keep their hallowed halls free from doubters and new thinkers. The tone, in which this reply is now directed towards our decades-long efforts to propose a critical review of supposed historical facts, suggests that this is not an honest approach, but the hasty effort to protect the romantic production of history, to defend it against skeptics, like an avalanche protection, similar to what took place twenty years ago in the German language region. The book "The Islamic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula and the distortion of the past" (original title "La conquista islámica de la península ibérica y la tergiversación del pasado") by Alejandro García Sanjuán (Marcial Pons, Madrid, 500 p.) was published last year. The subtitle "From catastrophism to denial" ("Del catastrofismo al negacionismo") states even more what it’s about: a settlement of accounts that had long been neglected.
The author García, professor at the University of Huelva, says that it was Olagüe's book, which he already found in his parents' house, and against which he now turns with all his might in his new book. As a matter of fact, Olagüe wrote almost half a century ago, and his work still remains explosive, it seems to have become even more effective after the Spanish new edition appeared in Córdoba in 2004.
First of all, it is easy for his opponent García to tint Olagüe as a fascist (correct would be falangist) and thus to make him unpopular. García also mentions "ignorance, distortion and change" in a headline and throughout the book. With these words, he labours through 500 pages in length, speaks of fraud, and also mentions a certain negation as "not comparable", but cannot bring any "evidence" for traditional historiography except for a few coins and chronicles, all of which might have been produced very late. He also resorts to non-relevant oriental sources whose veracity he cannot prove, either.
When I received the book of Olagüe (edition 1974) through a friend in 1995, I was surprised and even pleased with this refreshingly different view of the history of Andalusia. I wrote a review and evaluation (1998) which had consequences ( see go here). Thus Ignacio Olagüe, for the first time became known in the German-speaking scene. He found astonished readers who picked up the ball. Thanks to Eugen Gabowitsch and Anatoli Fomenko, the book became known in Russia which prompted demand in Spain where a re-edition was necessary (2004), which was soon out-of-print again. The highly respected Spanish-French journalist and historian Bernard Vincent (born in Paris in 1941, several honorary hats), specialist of the Moriscos of Spain in the 16th century, wrote the preface.
The original book, published in French in 1969, was born under good auspices: the well-known historian Fernand Braudel (of the Académie Française) had supported the first publication. The complete Spanish edition of 1974 was endorsed by Joseph Perez (Honorable Legion) and the Fundación Juan March (Madrid). It was the Government of Andalusia that furthered the edition of March 2004 (ed. Plurabelle, Córdoba). This does not mean anything except: the book does not move beyond the possibility of acceptance in society and academy.
The Basque Ignacio Olagüe Videla (1903-1974), in some way a successor to Américo Castro and a supporter of Spengler's thesis of the organic ups and downs of the history of mankind, had shown in his books that history as taught in the schools describing the flashlike conquest and conversion of Spain to Islam could not have been carried out this way by the Arabs, but was to be understood as a gradual transformation of the faith by reception of the superior Arabic culture in Andalusia. The various unitarian forms of faith, near to Arianism and yet different, are no longer fully intelligible to us. They developed into Islam, in contrast to the trinitarian transformation of Christianity that evolved into Catholicism. Olagüe was thus arriving at a more sensible view of the development in medieval Spain, although he did not yet discuss the inherent chronological faults. In this sense, he resembles Günter Lüling, who did not know Olagüe and yet described a similar evolution of the monotheistic religions while neglecting a chronological reorganization (see go his contributions here in the library).
Opponents to Olagüe’s new vision were plenty. Pierre Guichard, born in 1939, wrote a first French rejection in 1974 (Spanish translation 1987). On the other hand, the writer Antonio Gala from Córdoba, in an interview in the most important daily newspaper of Spain, El País, on October 13, 1988, spread the ideas of Olagüe, without mentioning its author. García expressly refers to this interview. He sees himself in a struggle against the distortions and falsifications of traditional historiography by irresponsible laity. If, for example, they deny the historicity of the (Yemeni or Persian) general Musa Ibn Nusayr, "conqueror of Spain in 711," because this Nusayr is practically intangible, even according to the best Arab scholars like Mahmud Ali Makki, as García admits. According to Olagüe, this general is a typical Maghreb style invented saint. García mentions some coins starring Nusayr found in Tunisia with suspicious, if not ridiculous, inscriptions in Latin (look for details my essay of 1998, cited above; see also the Spanish contribution of Ilya Topper go here). The chronicle Akhbar Majmua (11th century, conserved in the National Library of Paris) is quoted as a proof for the correctness of the well-known historiography, a romantic account of the events surrounding general Musa and the Goths, as imagined to have occurred more than 300 years earlier. This somewhat concise sketch is not attested to either by gothic nor by foreign testimonies.
This is all well-known and could not be improved by García. He is concerned with the social impact of the doubters, both religiously and politically. Olagüe had made a courageous step forward by invoking ecological factors, droughts, and famine, as forces in history. García does not take up the injective. For him, the impact of "negation" is an agression to the social life of Spain. If history has been different and well-known figures lose their reality, then Pelayo and the Cid, the national heroes of Spain, are also dispensable. This aspect had prompted the women's rights defender Victoria Sendón de León (1986/1993) to refresh the public memory of Olagüe with enthusiastic words.
On the other hand, Catalan Dolors Bramon, professor at the University of Barcelona, wrote a brief rejection of Olagüe in 2001, in which she pointed out the implications of this "nonsense" for the new Islamic communities in Spain. She refutes none of the arguments of Olagüe, rejects them only for political, social, and religious reasons.
This is the main motif of García's book and, therefore, the fanaticism with which García opposes the "negationists" makes the reader doubt his scientific integrity, - as his colleague, Kenneth Baxter Wolf, does in his discussion - because Garcia explicitly points out that a larger circle of readers than those of scienctific matters are hit. García‘s intention is enlightening the greatest possible audience, to keep them from the deceptive machinations of the deniers. This in itself must not be a blemish, if the infantile expression and irrationality in this case would not lead to embarrassment.
The line on which García moves is not uncommon. "Catastrophism" in Spanish history means the loss of Catholic-Gothic Spain to the Islamic-Arab conquerors in 711. Garcia wants to get rid of this vocabulary, too, words like invasion, occupation by the Arabs and the like, as well as "Reconquista" (re-conquest by the Christians). In principle, he takes advantage of Olagüe's campaign of enlightenment while at the same time he denigrates the inventor of the formula.
More recently, prof. Dr. Emilio González Ferrín, head of the faculty of philology at the University of Seville (see here go contributors), took up the inspiration from Olagüe and further developed it in his book „Historia general de Al Ándalus. Europa entre Oriente y Occidente“ (2006), and it is precisely this book that must have provoked García's opus of 500 pages, because in this case it is not the "miserably unscientific" work written by a layman, but an academically founded work of an Arabist, (García, p. 252 f), as Baxter Wolf emphasizes, whose review of García‘s book discusses the problem also from a general point of view.

For the literature I refer to my old essay of 1998, here the additional titles quoted above:
Baxter Wolf, Kenneth (2014): La conquista islámica. Negacionar el negacionismo. Revista de Libros, 9. 6. 2014 (internet)
Bramon, Dolors (2015): Dispatares sobre el Islam en España –
Ferrín, Emilio González (2006): Historia general de Al Ándalus. Europa entre Oriente y Occidente (Almuzara, Córdoba)
(2008): „Al-Andalus: Del mito asumido al Renacimiento“ (go here in the library)
Gala, Antonio: Interview in El País, 13. Oktober 1988
García Sanjuán, Alejandro (2013): La conquista islámica de la península ibérica y la tergiversación del pasado (Marcial Pons, Madrid, 500 S.)
Guichard, Pierre (1974), «Les Arabes ont bien envahi l’Espagne. Les structures sociales de l’Espagne musulmane», Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, vol. 29, núm. 6 (spanische transl. Valencia 1987)
Illig, Heribert (1991): Die christliche Zeitrechnung ist zu lang (VFG 1-91, Gräfelfing)
Lüling, Günter (2006): Preußen von gestern und der Islam von morgen (Erlangen) - here in the library
Olagüe, Ignacio (1950): La decadencia de España (4 Bde)
(1969) Les Arabes n'ont jamais envahi l'Espagne (Flammarion, Bordeaux)
(1974) La revolución islámica en occidente (Barcelona; 2° ed. 2004 Córdoba)
Sendón de León, Victoria (1986/1993) La España herética (Barcelona)
Topper, Ilya (1998): „La datación árabe en el Mediterráneo“ (here, section 2D) go-
Topper, Uwe (1998): „Ein neues Bild des mittelalterlichen Spanien“, in „Zeitensprünge“ (Mantis Verlag, Gräfelfing) Heft 3/98, S. 466 ff. - go here in the library

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