History Books to be released this Spring
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Spring releases: a brief video from CSPAN
Gotta love C-Span.
This one's going on my list: The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle over American History, by Jill Lepore, one of the most gifted historians now living. She uses the present-day Tea Party and its issues and rhetoric as a takeoff point for reviewing the many uses to which we have put the memory of the American Revolution.
I have two, now three of Lepore's books on my wishlist but at the same time I am not very happy with her over an entry she wrote for TeachingHistory.com, http://teachinghistory.org/issues-and-research/roundtable-response/24063
When I first read it I wanted to tell her that we don't all live in Boston or Philadelphia, but somehow we have to pass that feeling on to our children. The computer seems like a fine tool for us to use to do it.
Since then I have started to understand that I have lived in the "Boston" of the Midwest. It is also possible that we all live in historical sites, we just need someone that can point it out.
In Over-the-Rhine: When Beer Was King the author compares today's Tea Party with the Know Nothing Party of the mid 1800s. Any thoughts on that comparison ? Anyone have a book they would recommend about the know Nothings?
I give up on the touchstone. http://www.librarything.com/work/10623900/book/66592526
I think she's onto something important. The Internet is hostile to historical analysis, and much of what passes for thought, online, implicitly treats the past as if everything happened simultaneously, and every human action or speech-act is an infallible window into the character or nature of the actor. You know how we're always reminded that everything we say or post online will be preserved there forever? That's not all: it is liable to be wrenched out of context and served up as an exemplar of all that we believe.
For all its futurism, nothing ever really changes on the Internet. That's the illusion, anyway. The past is the meaningless gray expanse that preceded the Singularity, in which everything happens at once.
To get a feel for history, I agree that it's necessary to break out of the bubble of the Internet (or mass media, or the salon culture of Bourbon Paris, or whatever sophisticated parochialism happens to characterize your time and place). You have to make a kind of felt contact with the past, and this happens at certain physical places. For me it was (for the first time) the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida. I'm sure I'd had this sense of connection before, but not so strongly as to be forced to make something of it.
I'm trying to get at something that is more coherently described in Silencing the Past by Michel-Rolph Trouillot. It's true that these sites of connection are available anywhere; he describes some in Haiti. And some sites where people have a strong sense of touching the past are actually clouded with legend. I'm now thinking of the nearby waterfall where local people ardently believe a lovelorn Cherokee "princess" leaped to her death.
I have Silencing the Past on my desk at home, I checked it out of the library last week. She is right about the sense of connection to history that you can get from a place or, for me digging through an archive or touching an artifact, a ship or a building or even a signed book.
Reading, on the internet or in a book has never given that connected feeling except one time. I was reading John Rankin's Letters on American Slavery and I grew up outside Ripley Ohio. I took dates up to sit in his front yard and take in the view. It is a historic site but its importance was never explained to us.
I think the internet, digital history, is a great way for us to expose out children to local history so that when they get out into the neighborhood they can feel the connection.
This one's been around for a while, but I was impressed: The Party of Fear, which has been revised and updated since I read it.
In my edition (from the '90s) Bennett expresses strong hope that the know-nothing nativist strain had finally gone out of American rightism. Sadly, the young 21st century's immigrant-baiting politics, free-lance border patrols, and crusade against "political Islam" have crushed that hope.
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