Monday, April 12, 2010

Bad History month there and here

Have you ever noticed that tourism has been the excuse for more dreadful developments in modern history than anything but Twitter?
Gail Collins in the New York Times laments outbreaks of crazy history (and some geography too) across the United States.

Meanwhile, Andrew Smith laments dubious interpretations of the First World War history of Canada and muses:
Perhaps the government should appoint an academic historian as its chief historical officer to pre-check all speeches by dignitaries for questionable interpretations of history. This office would be an extension of the educational functions of the state, much like subsidies for schools, museums, and public television.
I should not be disagreeing with Andrew, who has good points here -- and has been saying nice things about my own recent work -- but I'm not sure scholars should seek this top-down, authoritarian approach to historical truth. History should be an argument about the past, not a declaration about it. Methinks if historians can't convince people with their arguments, they won't do it with their titles.
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