Reflected in this course, even though Nora's essay is about French history, it can be applied to many areas of Chinese studies. China is a country that witnessed vast changes in the past 150 years. It changed from an empire to a republic (1911), fought a war with Japan (1937-1945), which was the Asian phase of World War II, became a Communist country (1949), and went on to execute capitalist style reforms in 1978. These changes brought about constant reflections of Chinese memories. The study of Chinese historical memory, therefore, is also a study of how the Chinese perceived their changes in history, and how they explained/justified/resisted these changes. Growing up in Communist China, I grew accustomed to having one Communist clique denounce another, only to be denounced by its successor. Heroes of one era became villains of another, and heroes again of yet another. This constant reinterpretation of history could be a mind boggling experience if one lived through it for very long. It eventually numbs some people to historical interpretations, rendering one very cynical and resistant to any attempt to assign meaning to history. On the other hand, this historical reflection on memory of the past is also a good source to understand what people think at present.
But it may not take coercive suggestion to affect a person’s memories. The testimony of eyewitnesses is notoriously subject to suggestion and to error, frequently with dire effects on the wrongfully accused. 6 With the advent of DNA testing, it is now possible to find, in many cases, an objective corroboration or refutation of such testimony, and Schacter notes that “a recent analysis of forty cases in which DNA evidence established the innocence of wrongly imprisoned individuals revealed that thirty-six of them (90 percent) involved mistaken eyewitness identification.”
Every few months, it seems, a group of colonists would discuss hijacking Jamestown's pinnace and sailing for the English fishing fleets at Newfoundland. Smith credited himself with stopping each of these projects. "But if I find any more runners for Newfoundland with the Pinnace, let him assuredly look to arrive at the Gallows." He also made this an occasion to reinforce his strictures on work, declaring, "he that gathers not every day as much as I do, the next day shall be set beyond the river, and banished from the Fort as a drone, till he amend his conditions or starve."