Historiography, or the way history is interpreted, has got to be one of my favorite aspects of studying history. Someone's interpretation of a historical event says so much more about their contemporary time and context, than the actual event they are writing about. When I did my final exams for my Master's I had to prep a topic called "The Origins of the Cold War," and depending on which era it was written in, the origin (and blame) lay with someone else. In the early 50s it was all blamed on Stalin, then a little later, all on American aggression, and then in the late 70s and early 80s it was a little of both, and then once the Russian archives were opened after the fall of the USSR there was even more added to the mix. Pretty interesting stuff...and good point about how slavery was something that was okay to look over in the 1940s, but in the wake of Vietnam there was such shame.

Posted by CaliValleyGirl at November 27, 2006 11:33 AM

It is so sad that we're rewriting our history to make us look less than what we are. I blame the colleges, which are filled with leftists.

We need to reclaim!

Posted by Nancy at November 27, 2006 12:12 PM

What happened? Vietnam. That's what he's talking when he uses words like "meaningless and futile" and "irreparable damage." Slavery and the Civil War were domestic American issues that we took care of. That's fine. But wars like Vietnam and Iraq hurt our integrity worldwide, obviously. Thanks for the post - it's rather eye-opening if you think about it. Or you could be like Nancy and not think at all.

Posted by Will at November 27, 2006 12:40 PM

Ah, good. Will's here doing his level best to support his pet meme. Oh dear, am I also not thinking at all?

Posted by Patrick Chester at November 27, 2006 03:54 PM

"Slavery and the Civil War were domestic American issues"...huh? Slavery, at least in its earlier days, was all about kidnapping Africans and bringing them the the U.S. Hardly a purely domestic issue, unless Africa is somehow part of the U.S. The Civil War disrupted the flow of cotton to the British textile mills, and threw hundreds of thousands--perhaps millions--of millworkers out of their jobs.

Why precisely would Commager (and Will) think that what we were trying to do in Vietnam was morally different from what we did in the Phillipines?

I suspect that Commager's opinion was influenced by the prevailing academic climate: it was popular to be patriotic in 1942; it was popular to anguish about America's lost soul in 1976.

Posted by david foster at November 27, 2006 03:54 PM

I think David may be right about the author's new pc feelings in the 1976 edition.
I am now 70, I remember WWII vividly. I remember the patriotism. I am going to get some criticsm here but I think the communist left in academia is responsible for a lot of the change. My husband retired 8 years ago after teaching in a college for many, many years. I know what I didn't at the time, Joe McCarthy was on to something. He may have been a drunk, he may have been a real crazy jerk but he knew the communists were trying to take over. I was a liberal in those days. My eyes are opened now. It took Carter to do it. Then all the information that is even now coming out of the Soviet union files tells us he was right. Have you ever read a communist manifesto from the 1940's? If I can find one I will try to email it to you. A lot of it has come to pass.

Posted by Ruth H at November 27, 2006 04:42 PM

I meant to say Humanist Manifesto in my post. I'm searching for one I can send.

Posted by Ruth H at November 27, 2006 07:29 PM