One of the areas that the advent of the Internet has changed most profoundly is the relationship that human beings have with their past. Sources that would once have been barely accessible after a difficult and taxing search are now available to one and all, and can be compared to more traditional texts. The article sets out to show how knowledge of Mao's China and the Cultural Revolution in particular will benefit significantly from the immense pool of recordings and video clips available on the Internet. With the resources afforded by the Web, a brand–new way of linking up words and images, text and visual sources, has become possible, providing the study of history and memory with unexplored tracts of promising terrain. But the importance of this emerging material is not just to do with historical knowledge and methodology. Its main contribution is political: the persecutors and the victims of those years have spoken out, they have deposited their memories online, exercising a faculty that the Cultural Revolution and post–Maoist political institutions had denied them for decades. Through the bottom–up perspective that the Internet provides, the historical protagonists have been able to bear witness in potential perpetuity without needing the researcher's mediation. By speaking directly to the public, the witnesses cease to be merely pieces of the past. They are not just victims or perpetrators who condemn past deeds, but, as the actors who made and endured history, they can turn themselves from passive historical figures into active political agents.
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