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The article analyzes one of the ways that history makes the headlines today: in discussions of whether the present can--and should--apologize for the past. It examines this recent phenomenon by asking if historical apologies have the ability to facilitate a process of historical reconciliation. In its first three sections, the article explores the range and forms of apologies reported in the press during the last decade or so, the motives and goals of apologists, and the reasoning of those with misgivings about the utility and wisdom of apologies. A fourth section assesses the efficacy of historical apologies. Is an apology a meaningful way for the present to engage the past or to address historic human injustice? Do apologies have the power to reconcile? The conclusion offers a brief explanation for why we seem to be living in an age of apology.


Weyeneth, R. R. (2001). The power of apology and the process of historical reconciliation. The Public Historian, 23(3), 9-38.

DOI: 10.1525/tph.2001.23.3.9

"Published as The Power of Apology and the Process of Historical Reconciliation, Robert R. Weyeneth, The Public Historian, Vol. 23, No. 3, pp. 9-38 (Summer 2001). ISSN: 0272-3433. © 2001 by the Regents of the University of California/Sponsoring Society or Association. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by [the Regents of the University of California/on behalf of the Sponsoring Society] for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® on JSTOR ( or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center,"

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