History changing

The Unmaking of American History by the Woke Mob

from The Wall Street Journal,

Academic historians are losing their sense of the past. In his August column for the American Historical Association’s journal, Perspectives on History, James H. Sweet warned that academic history has become so “presentist” that it is losing touch with its subject, the world before yesterday. Mr. Sweet, who is the association’s president and teaches at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, observed that the “allure of political relevance” is drawing students away from pre-1800 history and toward “contemporary social justice issues” such as “race, gender, sexuality, nationalism, capitalism.” When historians become activists, he wrote, the past becomes “an evidentiary grab bag to articulate their political positions.” Mr. Sweet knows his audience, so he did his best to appease the crocodile of political correctness. He denounced Justice Clarence Thomas for a gun-rights decision that “cherry-picks historical data” and criticized Justice Samuel Alito for taking the word “history” in vain 67 times in his Dobbs abortion opinion. But Mr. Sweet also pointed out that Nikole Hannah-Jones’s “1619 Project” isn’t accurate history, and that “bad history,” however good it makes us feel, yields bad politics. “If history is only those stories from the past that confirm current political positions, all manner of political hacks can claim historical expertise.” History’s armies of nonacademic readers will find this obvious and undeniable. Mr. Sweet’s academic peers, however, tore him to pieces on Twitter, accusing him of sexism, racism, gratuitous maleness and excessive whiteness.

“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child,” Cicero once wrote. “For what is the worth of a human life if it is not woven into the life of our ancestors by the record of history?” Even Ms. Hannah-Jones would agree with that. The AHA’s activist wing, however, disagrees. Like Cicero, who was both a politician and a historian, they see history as a rhetorical resource. Unlike Cicero, they see nothing good in their people’s history and only wickedness in their ancestors. When the purpose of history changes from knowledge of the past to political power in the present and future, historians become mere propagandists.

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The Unmaking of American History by the Woke Mob

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