Friday, March 15, 2013

Is history just identity politics?

At the Financial Times, Mark Mazower has some doubts about the universalist ideas of The Undivided Past, a new book by Princeton historian David Cannadine.

Cannadine, a professor of history at Princeton, is particularly concerned that fellow-members of his guild have contributed more than their fair share to the disharmony of mankind and he is anxious to see them use their talents more positively. The book thus rests upon a detailed account of what historians have been up to and, in particular, what they have said about the big six collective solidarities – religion, nation, class, gender, race and civilisation – that Cannadine argues have divided people and made them fight one another. I cannot think of another scholar who has so sweepingly dismissed the whole idea of history as identity politics. 
Mazower goes on to argue that categories like class and gender actually do divide people and are not just an invention of sectarian historians.

Arguing that high quality journalism requires investment (true statement), FT urges readers not to "cut and paste" and even appears to reject the fair-dealing use of brief quotation for review purposes as set out in the Canadian (and other) Copyright Acts. ("See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail.") 

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