The article analyzes some aspects of the relationship between memorial use of the past and political practice, considered in the double perspective of domination and emancipation. In the first section we address the value Nicole Loraux’s La cité divisée attributes to the practice of history as an emancipatory tool in opposition to the public memory in the late XXth century France. The second section considers some passages of Machiavelli’s Il Principe and Discorsi, in which emerges an ambivalent concept of memory, always placed in historical set of conflicts and fight for hegemony. Finally, the paper considers the public speeches of Hebe Bonafini (leader of Madres de la Plaza de Mayo) and their varying memory of the crimes of the dictatorship period and of the phenomenon of desaparecidos. The ultimate aim is to shed light on the variation in the reference to the past according to changing practices of political emancipation.