Question of the Week: The Present State of History
In a forward for the audiobook edition of his alternative-history novel Gettysburg, Newt Gingrich contends, “The profession of history today has been divided into specializations without life and postmodernism without joy or meaning, complete to the Orwellian rewriting of history to suit modern political agendas.” Do you agree or disagree? Why?
9 Responses to Question of the Week: The Present State of History
I strongly disagree.Why would specialization be without life? Fortunately there are truly great historians & this quotation does NOT apply to them.
As with most generalizations, we can find examples that fit and examples that don’t.
History is a noble calling–we are the Talkers, the LoreMasters, the Keepers of the Past. We have been revered and reviled, but here we are, anyway. Gather the tribe around the fire tonight and tell the great stories of the people.
Gingrich is a complicated man. I think he is a better LoreMaster than a politician, but that is just my opinion. He is better served by the past than the future.
That expert at “Orwellian rewriting … to suit modern political agendas” has advocated some “alternative-science” as well. The problem is not the profession of history (or science) the problem is what the non-professionals do with it.
With all due respect to ex-Speaker and ex-Professor (as well as other categories of “ex”) Gingrich, I have perceived much joy resounding from the excellence of many “postmodern” historians’ writings and oral presentations. While some may adhere overly to agendas, I can think of no person more agenda-riddled than he who advocates, for example, firing school janitors and replacing them with black schoolchildren, and “crows” (Jim?) that these same children have no employed role models in their lives. Perhaps he should venture forth from McLean and conduct some actual research into postmodern life rather than espouse stereotypes.
Historians are as necessary as the air we breathe.As president of Senegal Léopold Sedar Senghor said: ‘Un peuple qui néglige son passé, compromet son avenir”
Seems like Dr. Gingrich is sticking his head in sand, unable to cope with postmodernism and the problems it poses. Is not the essence of academia an attempt to answer questions? If postmodernism argues that history is interpretive, and Dr. Gingrich disagrees, he should simply counter that argument in a scholarly fashion, not complain about its ramifications. While he may not enjoy the challenges to traditional political-military history, others have rejoiced in them.
I also find his complaints about the politicization of history humorous. I recall him beginning every statement with “as an historian” on the campaign trail. It is nothing new, nor anything to be particularly afraid of.