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The Purpose of the Past (2008)
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History is to society what memory is to the individual: without it, we don't know who we are, and we can't make wise decisions about where we should be going. But while the nature of memory is a constant, the nature of history has changed radically over the past forty years, for good but also for ill. Historian Wood examines the sea change in the field, offers insight into what historians do, and how they can stumble. New currents of thought have brought refreshing changes to the discipline, expanding its compass to previously underexamined and undervalued groups and subjects. At the same time, however, extreme, even nihilistic, relativism has assaulted the relevance, even the legitimacy, of the historian's work, and the divide between academic and popular historians has widened into a chasm, separating some of the field's most important new ideas from any kind of real audience.--From publisher description.
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