*Update: Kevin Levin responds (kinda) to Professor Wood here. I'll be responding to Kevin Levin in a separate post soon.
Oh my. Professor Gordon S. Wood seems to delight in overturning the tables in the temple:
College students and many historians have become obsessed with inequality and white privilege in American society. And this obsession has seriously affected the writing of American history. The inequalities of race and gender now permeate much of academic history-writing, so much so that the general reading public that wants to learn about the whole of our nation’s past has had to turn to history books written by nonacademics who have no Ph.D.s and are not involved in the incestuous conversations of the academic scholars. (Emphasis mine.)Now that was a mouthful if ever there was one. Sounds familiar, does it not?
And . . .
. . . the new generation of historians has devoted itself to isolating and recovering stories of the dispossessed: the women kept in dependence; the American Indians shorn of their lands; the black slaves brought in chains from Africa. Consequently, much of their history is fragmentary and essentially anachronistic—condemning the past for not being more like the present. It has no real interest in the pastness of the past. These historians see themselves as moral critics obligated to denounce the values of the past in order to somehow reform our present. (Emphasis and links mine.)And . . .
Not only does the history these moral reformers write invert the proportions of what happened in the past, but it is incapable of synthesizing the events of the past. It is inevitably partial, with little or no sense of the whole. If the insensitive treatment of women, American Indians, and African slaves is not made central to the story, then, for them, the story is too celebratory. Since these historians are not really interested in the origins of the nation, they have difficulty writing any coherent national narrative at all, one that would account for how the United States as a whole came into being. (Emphasis mine.)It would be really hard to add anything to these comments. And it's not necessary. He simply nails it. Those of us outside the "incestuous conversations" have been pointing this out and writing about it for many years. But there's something very validating when these same observations come from inside the temple of academia. We know what he writes rings true which is why the strident claims of "objectivity and balance" from these same academic historians, along with their scoffing at the notion of political correctness, consoles only those involved in the "incestuous conversations." They are blinded by their own arrogance and sense of moral superiority; the blind leading the blind.
You can read all of Professor Wood's brilliant piece (which is actually a tribute to Professor Bernard Bailyn) here at The Weekly Standard. He concisely, but very skillfully, exposes the shrinking credibility of modern historians and one can sense both the sadness and anger in his writing.
Hat tip to David Corbett.