192 pages | 8 B/W Illus.
History, Politics and the American Past assesses the connection between historiography and politics in America, arguing for a distinction between the past, and the history written about it.
While necessarily interpreting the past, professional historians and those with a general interest alike remain tempted, consciously or not, to make American history serve their own political and moral views. There is a tendency to impose our present values on the past, and sometimes go so far as to believe the past can be changed by present action. In this volume, Ari Helo analyzes examples of this, including metahistorical narratives, Presidential speeches, and the sometimes vague rhetoric of the Confederate statue campaigns, before diagnosing the source of doing so and suggesting how we might avoid it. Taking America as its example, the book illuminates essential methodological issues related to history writing as well as deciphering the relationship of understanding between practicing historians and theorists of history in an accessible way.
The book will be of interest to scholars and students of American history, historiography, American studies and cultural studies, providing a vivid account of how to make sense of American history.
Introduction; 1. Breaking Away from Progressive History; 2. Bidding Farewell to Progressive Individualism; 3. Letting Go of Narrative History: The Linearity of Time in Historical Research; 4. Parting with Moralistic Historiography; 5. Doing away with Politics in Political History; 6. Concluding Remarks: The Long Goodbye to the American Past; Select Bibliography; Index