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Taking Responsibility for the Past: Reparation and Historical Justice.

Thompson, Janna
June 4, 2015

Source: (2002) Malden, MA and Oxford, UK: Polity Press, Blackwell Publishers, Ltd.

Janna Thompson begins this examination of reparation and historical justice with the statement that history is a story of unrequited justice. Treaties have been broken; peoples robbed, exploited, enslaved, and killed; and communities and cultures devastated and obliterated. Usually, no recompense has been paid to the victims or their descendants. In numerous ways – continued inequity, enmity, violence – historical injustices thus long haunt the descendants of perpetrators and victims. For many who are successors to the victims, the desire to obtain justice for historical wrongs is vital; they seek apologies and reparations from those who are successors to the perpetrators. While clearly these matters pose important historical and political questions, Thompson focuses in this book on the moral aspects of the demands for apologies and reparations. Thus Thompson attempts a systematic inquiry into the existence, nature, and extent of historical obligations and entitlements. She looks at the issue of historical obligations; the question of what may be owed in response to historical injustices; claims for reparation and considerations of equity; the status of ancient wrongs in relation to current claims for justice; historical obligations and transgenerational relationships; and historical entitlements with respect to the claims of descendants of victims.


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