Studied history as my main, switched career, and it as a strong interest. I actually have a question on the act of retelling of history. Just how grounded is the retelling of history caught in current events in your opinion? Obviously there is bias present in the author, but it seems to me that the retelling becomes a point to highlight events and people to lend weight to a cultural/societal ideal/though while ignoring the rest. Continued ==>
It is unavoidable that current events and societal preoccupations would color what topics historians are interested and how they approach those topics. Pace to those historians who believed in the Noble Dream of Objectivity, but historians aren’t robots and there’s no way to eliminate it from our scholarship. The only thing we can do is be honest and self-aware about it: as David Blight says, we all have biases and don’t trust anyone who says they don’t.
To take a classic example, the Dunning school of American history was fatally flawed by the fact that the men who made it up were almost entirely white Southerners whose fathers had fought for the Confederacy and who were themselves violently hostile to Reconstruction and the idea of black civil rights, and trying to create a “usable history” for the dominant politics of white reconciliation in the 1890s-1910s.
At the same time, the Dunning school would never have been overturned if it hadn’t been for the discipline reacting first to WWII and the ideological threat of Nazism (which led a lot of scholars to rethink the “needless war” thesis and the idea of fighting a war for the ideal of human equality, however flawed in practice), and then the rise of the civil rights movement and especially its popularity among Northern college students in the 1960s inspiring a whole bunch of historians to re-examine the Civil War and Reconstruction from the ground-up and completely undermine the Dunning school.
Wait… Did I just lose the other half of that history post?
I think you might have, anon. If only there was some way for me to message you directly….