Source: (2003) In John Torpey, ed., Politics and the past: on repairing historical injustices. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Pp. 63-90.

As Alan Cairns puts it, the notion of xe2x80x9ccoming to terms with the pastxe2x80x9d does not involve a celebration of great achievements, but rather the reverse. It consists of a moral and intellectual grappling with past behavior that gives more cause for shame than pride. To a large degree, the past which is targeted by this phenomenon of xe2x80x9ccoming to termsxe2x80x9d is the twentieth century. Notable exceptions include the slave trade, slavery, and colonialism. In this framework, Cairns examines certain aspects of the complex set of actions and behaviors involved in coming to terms with the past. With respect to the intellectual task in particular, he looks at changes in human sensibility in the past half century, and the scholarly recovery and interpretation of historical facts, including the identification of who did what to whom. To illustrate this latter endeavor, Cairns sketches four case studies by other writers. The case studies deal with Germans and the Holocaust, the Japanese xe2x80x9crape of Nanking,xe2x80x9d injustices and atrocities under Communism in a variety of countries, and the Canadian treatment of aboriginal peoples.