14 March 2013

More On Heritage & History

A follow up to yesterday's post. Several academic historians have denounced certain historical perspectives as "heritage, not history." I think they're confused. Consider American Heritage Magazine:

American Heritage, the oldest, most widely known and respected popular U.S. history magazine, provides high quality writing on the American experience for its half million readers. For 60 years, the magazine has told the American story with verve, humor, compassion and, above all, authority. Edited first by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Bruce Catton, American Heritage has published the leading historians of the last half century including David McCullough, Stephen Ambrose, Joseph Ellis, Doris Kearns Goodwin, James McPherson, and David Hackett Fischer.

So, heritage is history. But most of us knew that anyway.


ropelight said...

History is part of our heritage, an important part, but it's only a part of a much larger and more complex inheritance. In the broad sense, our heritage includes recorded information, knowledge, customs, beliefs, habits, technologies, laws, morals, music and art, and so much more.

Our heritage defines who we are and where we came from and it both unites us with, and differentiates us from, other groups with partially overlapping inheritances. History helps us make those distinctions.

But, in truth, recorded history is but a collection of stories (some decidedly self-aggrandizing) we tell ourselves and our children in an attempt to define our place in the world. Stories which can never be but an abbreviated and overly simplified interpretation of events, and which are always subject to revision.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Rope - great comment and I agree. The post is intended for those who belittle heritage as history and who are overly critical of "celebratory history" - all too much for a response here.

However, as noted, fundamentally everyone approaches our history with a certain perspective. One can accomplish a certain level of objectivity as long as one is conscious of that perspective and doesn't let it unduly twist facts into something false. That being said, there is nothing wrong with allowing one's worldview "color" their perspective. That may seem like a contradiction, but I don't think so. The "right or wrong" lies in which worldview one ascribes to. I believe mine is right.

ropelight said...

Hillsdale College historian, Paul Rahe, has current thoughts about the level of partisan political contamination in the modern academy at his Ricochet site, his essay is titled The Perils of Intellectual Apostasy.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Rope.