- Review: "History's Memory: Writing America's Past, " | Owlcation.
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- Review: "History's Memory: Writing America's Past, " | Owlcation;
As the United States widely celebrated its national icon, we should reflect on the meaning of such consensual praise. This class will challenge the mainstream narrative that sanitized a man who, once a subversive, was whitewashed into a National founding figure. Exploring the reality of King's life, writings and speeches, students will question how the memory of the civil rights movements in has very much been shaped by the celebration of King as an exceptional individual, obscuring a collective and at times more radical black insurgency.
Or, is it conceivable that the Beardian twinges and the stress on slavery in the early volumes of Nevins's The Ordeal of the Union , which especially annoyed some Southern critics, owed something to Nevins's Columbia students such as Foner?
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Might any of this history have shaped the intellectual development of Philip Foner's nephew, Eric Foner, one of our leading neo-progressive or New Left historians, and one who since his first book in has consistently put the Civil War at the center of an American history organized around the struggles for freedom of African Americans and workers? Fitzpatrick again and again makes her main point about how our memory of history writing has marginalized figures like the elder Foner, but her quick-paced tour through their works and their reviews gives short shrift to their actual political, intellectual, and personal lives and legacies.
Calling attention to the forgetting of these predecessors, she actually may underestimate their past influence. Oddly, Fitzpatrick thus commits the same sin of generalizing about major trends which she attacks when it comes to pieties about "consensus" historiography. We get no sense of what was being taught, or what was in the textbooks, when, or why. Apparently we are supposed to know that already, or to assume that it did not much change, especially with regard to women, slaves, workers, and Natives.
Unfortunately, this puts Fitzpatrick in the same position she criticizes: she overturns the reigning orthodoxy about a radical departure without incorporating the insights of careful and detailed recent studies of American history and memory. With a few exceptions such as histories of southern whites and Native-white relations written between the wars , she cannot draw out the Access options available:.
Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. Edited by Gerhard A. David S. A few scholars have combined memoir and historiographical ref lection. In recent decades, the field of history of historiography has not only expanded quantitatively but is now also characterized by a greater methodological diversity. Yet historians studying the development of their field need to be aware, regardless of their own proclivities, of the recurrence of very similar arguments in methodological debates.
One recent example is a volume dedicated to the German historian Wolfgang J. Mommsen, which attempts to contrib- ute to the history of the West German historical profession during the s, s, and s more generally. Marchal have directed a mas- sive collaborative research project, funded by the European Science Foundation. Some- times personal scholarly connections encouraged transfer, sometimes transfer resulted from political exile, and sometimes it was simply caused by historians working on countries other than their own.
When the British historians David Blackbourn and Geoff Eley in the early s challenged the notion of a German Sonderweg special path , they did so against the back- ground of the much older British debate about the Whig interpretation of English national his- tory. This micro-historical perspective allows the contributors to shed light on specific narrative strategies. Yet this volume, too, is explicitly comparative. The essays analyze, for example, the emergence of national-imperial his- toriographies in Britain and Russia as a response to peripheral nationalisms in the late 19th cen- tury, or Czech and Austrian Marxist attempts to rewrite national histories after Several contributions, among them the ones just mentioned, contradict the notion of a crisis of national master narratives in Europe after Nevertheless, sometimes even a comparative European focus does not suffice.
Georg Iggers and Q.
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Edward Wang provide an analysis of the interactions of the Western and the non-Western historiographical traditions from the late 18th century to the present. Finally, the five-volume Oxford History of Historical Writing offers the first collective history of historical writing with a global focus. Most of the volumes combine regional or national with thematic approaches, a plausible compromise for a project that seeks to be as comprehensive as possible. Transnational Approaches During the last decade and a half, transnational perspectives have entered the historiographical discussion in more and more areas.
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Most recently, David Armitage has welcomed the various turns beyond the nation-state for the field of intellectual history. The decades after saw increasing American interest in the history of its former enemy, in particular the origins of National Socialism. As the Federal Republic of Germany benefited from the political and military conditions of the early Cold War, so did West German historians from its intellectual side effects. While many American historians expected their German colleagues to critically examine recent German history, they also exhibited a surprising willingness to re- establish ties with Germans whose academic biographies displayed significant brown spots.
Project MUSE - History's Memory: Writing America's Past, (review)
In West Germany, thanks to several American educational exchange programs, generations of high school and university students came in contact with American academia and society. This intensification of transnational exchange also leads to the question of how one should label specific approaches, or individuals associated with them.
Rosenberg had completed both his PhD and his habilitation before emigrating to Great Britain and then the United States; he certainly had spent his formative years in Germany. The same is true for the Bielefeld School of Social History that emerged during the late s and s. This was a historiographical project that openly declared itself as distinctly transcending national methodological borders, even if the interpretive questions remained em- bedded in a national framework.
Both returned as postdoctoral fellows: Wehler in the early s spent two years at Stanford, Berkeley, and in Washington, DC, working on a study on American imperialism in the late 19th century. Both historians not only delved into American history but familiarized themselves with trends in US social science and, of course, American writings on modern German history.
And when these historians, together with a few like-minded German colleagues, attempted to secure start-up funding for their journal Geschichte und Gesellschaft in , they emphasized in particular the support it had received abroad, by listing an advisory committee consisting of 19 scholars from six countries and various disciplines. With six members, American historians and social scientists constituted by far the largest group.
A closer look at the German—American community of historians in the s and beyond reveals a much greater degree of methodological and interpretive difference between the West German social historians and their American colleagues. Whether it was the reconceptu- alization of history as a historical social science or the Sonderweg special path paradigm, Americans proved reluctant to join the German historians who themselves claimed to proceed in lockstep with their colleagues on the other side of the Atlantic. To be clear, selective appropriation is not the issue; it would be unrealistic, of course, to expect a complete adoption of methods prevalent in another academic context.
But what is remarkable in this German—American case is that a claimed methodological proximity did not correspond to the historiographical reality. In addition, the degree to which German historians attempted — sometimes successfully — to enlist their American colleagues for domestic debates is striking. Americans, who formerly had supposedly lacked the neces- sary empathy for German history a popular argument of German scholars unwilling to engage with what they considered overly critical interpretations , now became scholarly arbiters and impartial observers.
Geographical distance turned from a disadvantage into an advantage. Both were Germanophiles who at the same time harbored deep reservations about the increasing ethnic and religious diversity in American historiography and society. This was a postwar attempt to create a truly international intellectual enterprise, yet for the Germans it also had the pleasant side effect of rehabilitating scholars such as Heinrich Bornkamm, whose ideological commitment to National Socialism had been considerable.
Therefore his- torians should indeed pay increased attention to the transnational dimensions of historiography, yet they should not define transnational in a normative way.
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