Roy Rosenzweig: Everyone a Historian

History professionals--like most professionals--tend to emphasize the differences between themselves and others. Those who "do" history for a living (whether schoolteachers, university-based historians, museum curators, historic preservationists, documentary filmmakers, staff members at local historical societies, or other public historians) sometimes see nonprofessionals as ignorant of and uninterested in the past. In his 1989 presidential address to the members of the American Historical Association, the leading bastion of professional historians in the United States, Louis R. Harlan deplored the "present public ignorance of our cultural heritage." "This ignorance and indifference," he argued in a statement that has been echoed by many other history professionals, "has alarming implications for the future of our nation and our historical profession."1

The 1,500 people we have quoted in these pages refute the idea that Americans don't care about the past. Two fifths of our respondents, for example, reported that they pursue a hobby or collection related to the past, and they spoke of those pursuits with words like "love" and "passion." An Oklahoma man summarized his reasons for collecting old motorcycles in one sentence: "It is my life." Two thirds of our respondents described themselves as deeply connected to the past at family gatherings; and the stories they told indicate how the past figures in some of the most intimate corners of their lives. A northern Virginia woman said, "I always loved to hear my mother tell stories about the past," and her comment was typical. Like professional historians, these popular historymakers crafted their own narratives, albeit as dinner-table conversations or family trees rather than scholarly monographs. They preferred constructing their own versions of the past to digesting those prepared by others, and they viewed other sources and narratives with sharply critical eyes. Everyone, as Carl Becker famously observed, is his or her own historian.2

Moreover, there is nothing abstract or antiquarian about popular historymaking. In these interviews, the most powerful meanings of the past come out of the dialogue between the past and the present, out of the ways the past can be used to answer pressing current-day questions about relationships, identity, immortality, and agency. Indeed, this was a point that Becker recognized back in 1931 when he wrote his essay about "Everyman His Own Historian" and used the example of popular historical practice to argue that historians need to "adapt our knowledge" to "the necessities" of the present rather than "cultivate a species of dry professional arrogance growing out of the thin soil of antiquarian research." Thus, our interviewees implicitly join Becker in insisting on something that professional historians can too easily forget--"our proper function is not to repeat the past but to make use of it."3 For our respondents, the past is not only present--it is part of the present.

Such observations about how popular historymakers use the past and what they share with professional historians may contradict the conventional wisdom. Yet they are also commonsensical; anyone who reflects on his or her own experience of family and holiday gatherings--or indeed everyday life--will realize how the presence of the past saturates all of us. Whether surprising or commonplace, these findings have important implications for the practice of history and even for the future of American society. To sort out these findings and their implications would take much closer scrutiny of patterns of popular historymaking than a national telephone survey permits. What follows is one brief effort to describe the significance of what we heard, particularly for history practitioners. Inevitably, this personal statement reflects my own experiences as a scholar and teacher who has worked in a university for the past two decades and has also been involved in trying to present the past in nonacademic forums, including museums, films, oral history programs, CD-ROMs, and the World Wide Web.

For historians who want to engage with diverse audiences, this study offers encouraging news and useful advice (as well as some sobering cautions). The interests and passions that our respondents have described suggest bases for forging new connections, alliances, and conversations with those diverse audiences. Of course, many good teachers and history professionals are already aware of these conclusions about popular engagement with the past, about the power of the intimate past, and about the ways audiences actively and critically relate to the past. Our survey strongly supports their most creative approaches to presenting the past and connecting with audiences. This is hardly surprising: the most thoughtful teachers, museum curators, and historical writers listen carefully--if perhaps not always systematically--to what their audiences have to say. The endorsement that this survey provides for their insights and efforts is nevertheless important, since many innovations have recently come under attack from those who seek to reinforce traditional approaches.

Schools have been among the most hotly contested arenas in what have sometimes been called the "history wars."4 Our respondents had a great deal to say about history in school; they told us that they felt less connected to the past there than in any other setting we asked about. "Boring" was the most common description of history classes. An Alabama man's vivid recollection of high school--"my teacher was 70 years old and she carried a blackjack"--summed up the views of many.

While the history wars have often focused on content--what should be taught in classes or presented in exhibits--our respondents were more interested in talking about the experience and process of engaging the past. They preferred to make their own histories. When they confronted historical accounts constructed by others, they sought to examine them critically and connect them to their own experiences or those of people close to them. At the same time, they pointed out, historical presentations that did not give them credit for their critical abilities--commercialized histories on television or textbook-driven high school classes--failed to engage or influence them.

Given this preference for history as an active and collaborative venture, many respondents found fault with a school-based history organized around the memorization of facts and locked into a prescribed textbook curriculum. Their comments implicitly rejected the recommendations of conservative commentators on history in the schools. For these conservatives, the reason students don't know enough "history" (as defined by standardized tests and textbooks) is the rise of multiculturalism and the decline of a traditional curriculum based on the patriotic story of the American nation--the very curriculum our respondents described as insulting to their ability as critical thinkers. Even if one shared conservatives' desire to cram more facts into students, this survey suggests that the revival of traditional stories and traditional teaching methods conservatives advocate isn't the way to do it.

What respondents told us runs counter to the narrative of declension that says Americans are disengaged from history because cultural radicals have captured the schools (and museums) and are teaching gloomy stories about our nation--stories about McCarthyism rather than America's triumph in the cold war, about Harriet Tubman rather than the Founding Fathers, about destroying Indians rather than taming the West.5 If only we would get back to the good old facts of American triumph (and the old-fashioned methods of teaching those facts), they maintain, then Americans would be reengaged. The people we interviewed said that they are already quite involved with the past--through formal activities like going to museums as well as informal pursuits like talking with their families. They liked history in museums and didn't like history in schools--not because Harriet Tubman has been added, but because the schools require dry recitation of facts instead of inspiring direct engagement with the "real" stuff of the past and its self-evident relationship to the present.

The fading of the traditional nationalist story has much deeper roots than shifts in school curriculum--one might look at how American misadventures in Vietnam or the racial divisions of the 1960s undercut nationalism, or how the globalization of the economy has made it harder for nation-states to deliver on promises of prosperity for all.6 Some regard the waning of nationalism as a threat; others see it as an opportunity.7 Whatever one's position, there is no need to equate history with the nation-state, even though that equation has long been at the heart of professional historical practice.8 The past, our survey respondents suggest, has many mansions, and in America at least, the past is very much alive, even if traditional textbook narratives of the national past seem to be dying out.

Some teachers are already demonstrating that the narrative of national greatness is not the best way to engage students with the past. Veteran North Carolina high school teacher Alice Garrett tries to help her students develop "personal meanings" of the past through research projects, reenactments, and exposure to firsthand sources. Breaking with "the rigidity of the state's curriculum," she explains, "almost always brings about different power relationships. The teacher becomes a learner; the student becomes a teacher. The parent becomes an expert consultant, and the most energetic individual student in the class emerges as a group organizer."9

Garrett is not alone in trying to teach outside the canon. Many other teachers around the country have tried to reshape the formal study of the past by encouraging students to interview members of their families, to explore sites of historical events, or to assume the roles of particular individuals in the past. David Kobrin and his collaborators in the Providence schools transformed the U.S. history curriculum so that students could "grab the power of the historian for themselves rather than rely on the anonymous authors of a textbook." Working from primary documents, teams of students wrote their own histories. Particularly when they could see the connections between the historical issues and their own lives, Kobrin recalls, they worked "past the bell."10 Creative teachers are tapping into the most resonant patterns in popular historymaking by allowing and encouraging students to revisit, reenact, and get close to the past through encounters with primary documents and living historical sources. "When I teach American history," observes a perceptive high school teacher, "I ask them 'What will your grandchildren ask about you?' History is a living story. It's your story."11 Such approaches are far from new, of course. In the early twentieth century, "new historians" (like Becker) and supporters of "social studies" advocated historical instruction that closely connected the past and the present and that paid attention "to the present life interests of the pupil."12

Teachers who want to connect past and present and to turn students into historians are offering the kinds of classrooms that many respondents told us they wanted. Some public historians (filmmakers, preservationists, museum workers) who speak to largely adult audiences are also aiming to make history less of a top-down enterprise. Implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, our respondents endorsed such attempts to see historymaking as a more democratic activity that allows amateurs and professionals to learn from each other.

One fruitful metaphor for reimagining the relationship between history professionals and popular historymakers is what Michael Frisch has called "shared authority." Frisch urges us to break down hierarchies by redistributing and redefining the meaning of intellectual authority for crafting historical narratives. Scholars and public historians, he argues, "need better to respect, understand, invoke, and involve the very real authority their audiences bring to a museum exhibit, a popular history book, or a public program." The audience's "authority," he notes, may be "grounded in culture and experience rather than academic expertise," but "this authority can become central to an exhibit's capacity to provide a meaningful engagement with history" and to forge a dialogue "about the shape, meaning, and implications of history."13

In the 1980s some museums took the notion of shared authority directly into their exhibit halls and created what the Chinatown History Museum in New York called "dialogue-driven" exhibits and museums. Reclaiming the "neglected past" of New York's Chinatown, writes one of the museum's founders, John Kuo Wei Tchen, "must be done in tandem with the people the history is about" so that "personal memory and testimony inform and are informed by historical context and scholarship." The Chinatown History Museum, for example, has found "reunions to be an excellent way to link the felt need for history directly with historical scholarship"--an insight confirmed by our survey. The museum has focused on reunions of Public School 23, since the museum occupies its former quarters. "A dialogue between museum staff, scholars, and P.S. 23ers," Tchen reports, "developed and drove much of the organization's planning during the late 1980s and early 1990s."14

Likewise, when the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul opened in 1992, it involved visitors in "active participation with history as a process of inquiry and exploration," according to former assistant director Barbara Franco. Its planning for "A Common Ground: Minnesota Communities" proceeded along "three parallel paths--scholarly discourse about the nature and definition of community, audience research about public perceptions of community, and active involvement of community members in the themes and content of the exhibit." In order to portray an "insider's perspective" on the Winnebago Indians, the curators met frequently with a community advisory board, which helped find artifacts and photos, suggested oral history questions, and shaped the focus of the exhibit. The curators were able to provide "important background information and research skills"; in the process they gained the "trust of the community so that the Winnebago individuals and families were willing to share photographs, precious keepsakes, and personal stories."15

Such approaches have influenced curators outside the United States as well. In the late 1980s, organizers of the People's Story Museum in Edinburgh set out to involve local "people in the presentation of their own history." "The term 'People's Story,' " they explained, "was taken literally, as the story was to be told as far as possible in their own words and in this way the museum may be seen to be returning history to those who created it . . . in effect a handing over of some of the power of the Curator to the public." They launched an impressive set of partnerships, particularly with older residents of the community. One project, for instance, brought together "a wide range of community groups, from an Asian girls' sewing club to Adult Training Centres to primary schoolchildren" who created a banner that featured "contemporary people sharing their history with each other, surrounded by the objects, photographs and words which hold most meaning for those individuals who have created this work of art."16

Many earlier neighborhood and community history projects also embodied this ethic of shared authority. Such ventures--oral history programs, photo exhibits, walking tours, documentary films, union history classes--often grew out of the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Professional historians who were caught up in those movements tried to infuse a more democratic ethos into their historical practice. Frequently with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and its offspring, the state humanities councils, scholars collaborated with amateurs to collect and present stories of people who had been invisible in traditional national histories. Some of these efforts either originated as or became means of creating usable collective pasts for feminists, gays, or union workers.17

In the 1980s, funding for these collaborative and noninstitutional projects became harder to find; some were derided as "populist" rather than "serious" and "scholarly"; NEH shifted its funding away from them, although a number of state humanities councils continued to provide support. In the 1990s a growing chorus of voices has even argued that the government has no business funding the arts and humanities, that the private sector can do it better. Some conservatives have also made their own "populist" argument, which concludes that public agencies like NEH, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting concentrate narrowly on topics of interest only to elites. Our respondents didn't agree. They put more trust in historical presentations funded and sponsored by public agencies and nonprofit organizations--especially museums, which they regarded as the most trustworthy sources of historical information. (Our survey shows that an interest in history museums cuts across lines of income, education, and race.) Such views offer strong support for continued government funding of museums, documentary films, historic preservation, and other public humanities programs that bring together popular historymakers and history professionals in dialogues about the past.

Why not increase collaboration between professional historians and popular historymakers? Why not set up public humanities programs that bring together Civil War reenactors and Civil War historians? Why not make use of the World Wide Web, which has emerged as a popular venue for amateur historians, to create virtual meeting grounds for professionals and nonprofessionals?18 Why not connect professional archivists with popular historymakers who document the past through photos and diaries? Why not tap into the intimate ways that people use the past? By assembling wills and treasured objects passed between generations, museum exhibits might illuminate the ways people use the past to address matters of immortality. The personal connections people draw to public historical events--like the Kennedy assassination or World War II--would make excellent subjects for exhibits, class projects, public humanities programs, or documentary films.

All this is easier said than done. Our survey emphasizes not only the commonalities between professionals and popular historymakers but also the differences. The curator for the Winnebago exhibit noted the difficulty of becoming both a trusted insider and a dispassionate outside expert: "There were two sets of ethics operating in this exhibit development process--people ethics and historian ethics."19 Some history professionals will feel ill-equipped to deal with the intimate issues that popular historymaking can easily unearth. After workshops at the People's Story Museum repeatedly evoked painful memories from older participants, staff members decided they needed a family therapist to teach them more about confronting wrenching memories.

There are other differences as well. Professional historians, by training, have often been more suspicious of oral sources than of written documents.20 And we professionals have also been deeply invested in stories about the nation-state, institutions, and social groups--unlike the people we surveyed, who especially valued the past as a way of answering questions about identity, immortality, and responsibility. Our respondents talked at great length about the past as a source for moral guidance, but morality is not a category that has lately figured in our professional discourse, where relativist notions prevail. Consider the profound engagement with the past that we heard about from evangelical Christians. What does a largely secular group like historians have to say to them? Is there a basis of conversation across such fundamentally different notions about the past?

These differences should not be exaggerated; professional historians have talked about love, tragedy, and morality, just as the historymakers in our survey at times talked about the rise of the nation-state or the experience of social groups. Not surprisingly, history practitioners have found that biography, oral history, and microhistory--which intermingle the everyday and the intimate with larger social and political events--can bridge the gap between professional concerns and popular interests. Still, our professional training often teaches us to shun rather than embrace the moral and personal questions that seemed so important to respondents.21

Sometimes historians are also unprepared to deal with the political issues raised by efforts to share authority. Listening to the "community" does not necessarily solve the problem of deciding who speaks for it. The creation of a community advisory board can be a highly political process. And giving a platform to people not usually heard can provoke counterreactions from those who have traditionally had more power in shaping historical accounts.22 In 1997, for instance, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History planned an exhibit based on notions of shared authority, which was called "Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A Dialogue on American Sweatshops, 1820-Present." In a gesture of respect for those whose story was being told, the exhibit organizers planned a section on the notorious El Monte, California sweatshop to be told in the "participants' voice." Apparel manufacturers were also invited to contribute their perspective to the exhibit, but they refused: the exhibit, they said, gave too much attention to sweatshops and included the views of trade unionists. "Sharing a platform with the union and giving them undue recognition and credibility is something I do not want to get involved with," announced Joe Rodriquez, executive director of the Garment Contractors Association.23 Can authority be shared with people who are interested in victory rather than conversation?

Popular historymakers are also likely to raise unfamiliar and uncomfortable questions of their own. "I have found it more difficult to write about Chinese New Yorker history with and for fellow community members than for fellow academics," writes Tchen.24 Linda Shopes captures some of the tensions that can result from a dialogue between professionals and nonprofessionals in a perceptive commentary on the Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project of the late 1970s. She analyzes the many strains and misunderstandings between professional historians and community residents over what was important in the community's history, how to collect and interpret residents' stories, and finally how to report the results. On the one hand, in their collection of stories local residents lacked "the historical background and analytical framework to pursue certain subjects in sufficient depth." On the other hand, the professional historians "failed to appreciate the tapes' value. They used the oral testimony simply as a source of specific information, illustrative quotations, or interesting anecdotes that fit their own analytical framework. They were unable to penetrate beneath the surface of the informants' words."

Shopes concludes that "the deepest impediment to sustained collaboration between the project and the community" was the professionals' "primary affiliation . . . with a nationally organized profession" and their lack of "social commitment to a specific locale."25 My own experiences in the 1970s with filmmaker Richard Broadman confirms Shopes's point. When we began working on an oral history film about the impact of urban renewal on his Mission Hill neighborhood in Boston, Richard's neighbors were not eager to participate; he was a "newcomer" who had only lived there for five years. Only after another seven years of work on the film and of joint participation in community projects did local residents come to see it as "their" film as well as ours and told their stories for the camera.26

The differences are not simply ones of community affiliation. As Shopes recognizes, nonprofessionals have their own blinders, their own resistance to new approaches. Baltimore residents, for example, wanted histories to avoid anything "even mildly critical of the neighborhood" and to favor a "booster spirit" that made the scholars uncomfortable. Our survey respondents often used the past in complex and subtle ways, but their approach was sometimes in tension with my historical training and preferences. For example, I found their emphasis on the firsthand, the experiential, the intimate, and the familial to be confining as well as illuminating. At times respondents seemed primarily concerned with their own and their family's pasts; the stories of others were often ignored. This privatized version of the past, I worried, can reinforce rather than break down barriers between people, resist rather than promote change. Many respondents were struggling to reach beyond the firsthand, to think themselves into wider histories, and to scrutinize sources of the past that originated outside their immediate circles. Still, I sometimes found their views of the past (as well as they can be judged from these interviews) as narrow and parochial as those of the most traditional professional historians.

Even when popular historymakers avoided overt parochialism, they still tended to draw the circles of their historical interests narrowly. In interviews with white Americans, "we" most often centered on the family rather than other social groups--whether class, region, or ethnicity. The understanding of the past that white Americans get from their families is an enormously potent resource for living in the present, a way of coming to terms with personal identity and of gaining personal autonomy. But white Americans, it seems to me, less often use the past to reach beyond their families and recognize their connections to wider groups of neighbors and fellow citizens. Just as Americans seem to be bowling alone, as political scientist Robert Putnam argues in his commentary on the decline of civic society, they also seem to be writing their histories alone--or at least in small familial groups.27 Many white Americans understand and use the past in ways that make them suspicious of outsiders.

Black Americans and Sioux Indians drew the circle of "we" more broadly and saw themselves as sharing a past with other African Americans or American Indians.28 A distinctive view of the past enables both of these groups to maintain a collective identity in the present. Their understandings of the past help them live in an oppressive society. Black Americans, for example, are sustained by a progressive, enabling historical vision rooted in the story of emancipation and civil rights. And for Native Americans, an understanding of their cultural survival in a hostile world is a source of strength for both individuals and the community. Yet even here, the connections drawn--at least in these interviews--often stopped at the boundaries of their own group. Multiculturalist visions of easy border crossings and rich mixings need to confront the suspicion with which these borders are sometimes guarded.

Nevertheless, when people do let down their guard, the common patterns of historymaking that we observed can allow individuals to identify and empathize with others. Moreover, the past can provide a safe, because distant, arena in which people can imagine alternative identities and explore different points of view. We need to marry experience with imagination and enable people to connect with "imagined communities" beyond the ones that they have learned in family circles.29

Reading the survey interviews, I also worried that popular historymakers who emphasize the experiential and the firsthand may sometimes underestimate larger structures of power and authority. Families can nurture their members, but many individuals need to earn their livings in exploitative workplaces. And family breakups are often the result of economic crises rather than the failures of individuals. Historical narratives that start (and sometimes end) with the personal cannot readily take account of categories like capitalism and the state--categories, I would argue, that are useful to more than just history professionals.

A history grounded in the immediate and the experiential also runs the risk of neglecting important stories that are temporally or geographically distant. And valuing the experiential can obscure the degree to which reports of "experience" are mediated by existing structures of language and power.30 As Shopes observes, "Popular ideologies of independence, individual achievement, and respect for the 'self-made man' " shaped the memories reported by participants in the Baltimore project, just as popular ideology, language, and culture (for example, respondents' frequent invocations of "the family") surely stamped the interviews that we conducted.31

At stake here, at least potentially, is not simply whether one's sense of the past is rich in context, comparison, and complexity--whether, for example, one sees similarities between one's own experience and the experiences of others or recognizes how employers and politicians might have affected the course of family history. Such understandings of the past have a potential bearing on action in the present. Is it possible to build movements for social change without imagining a set of past and present connections to groups of people who aren't kin and ancestors? Is it possible to work for change without a vision of other alternatives that the past can provide? Is it possible to work for change without an understanding of the structures of power that support the status quo?

By providing context and comparison and offering structural explanations, history professionals can turn the differences between themselves and popular historymakers into assets rather than barriers. History professionals can help to enrich popular uses of the past by introducing people to different voices and experiences. They can help to counter false nostalgia about earlier eras. They can make people aware of possibilities for transforming the status quo. Recognizing how the civil rights movement broke the fetters of a stable and racist social order or how the CIO challenged entrenched notions of management "rights" can inspire people to work for social change in the present. We need a historical practice that is somehow simultaneously more local and intimate and more global and cosmopolitan, more shaped by popular concerns and more enriched by insights based on systematic and detailed study of the past. And, as our interviewees would insist, that historical practice needs to link the past and the present in an active and continuing conversation.32

My concerns about the presence of a privatized and parochial past in some of these interviews grow out of a belief that the past should be a vehicle for social justice. Obviously my perspective is not shared by all history professionals or, indeed, by most of the popular historymakers with whom we spoke. The past for many of them (particularly white Americans) is more a source of personal identity and empowerment than group identity and empowerment. Indeed, the prevalence of narratives of declension and defeat among white Americans suggests their understandings of the past may sometimes be disempowering. Their emphasis on stories of declining discipline and rising crime and their celebration of the family as a bulwark in a changing world could much more easily support traditionalist and conservative programs than movements for social change.

Yet this is not a nation of acquisitive and atomized individualists, as some libertarians would want us to believe. Our respondents cared deeply about morality, forging close relationships to others, and leaving legacies for the future. These values and priorities are an important foundation for mobilizing people for a better society--or really for people mobilizing themselves.

Of course, definitions of the "good society" vary widely, and historians play only a small role in bringing about larger social changes. Our respondents told us of beginning with the personal and the intimate, and historians too must begin with their immediate worlds--the places where they teach and talk about the past. The most significant news of this study is that we have interested, active, and thoughtful audiences for what we want to talk about. The deeper challenge is finding out how we can talk to--and especially with--those audiences. History professionals need to work harder at listening to and respecting the many ways popular historymakers traverse the terrain of the past that is so present for all of us.


1. Louis R. Harlan, "The Future of the American Historical Association," American Historical Review 95 (Feb. 1990): 3. Back.

2. Carl Becker, "Everyman His Own Historian," American Historical Review 37 (Jan. 1932): 233-55. Back.

3. Ibid., 252-53. Gerald Figal notes that Japanese "self-histories" (a written form of personal histories that have become popular in Japan since the early 1970s) share this tendency to relate past and present, "shifting easily from a chronology of the past to a commentary on the past and its ramifications for the present and future." "How to jibunshi: Making and Marketing Self-histories of Sh¯owa Among the Masses in Postwar Japan," Journal of Asian Studies 55 (November 1996): 902-33. Back.

4. See, for example, Mike Wallace, Mickey Mouse History and Other Essays on American Memory (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996); Edward T. Linenthal and Tom Engelhardt, History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past (New York: Henry Holt, 1996). Back.

5. For example, in her Wall Street Journal op-ed piece of October 20, 1994, which launched the assault on the national history standards, Lynne Cheney complained that Harriet Tubman was "mentioned six times," whereas Paul Revere, Robert E. Lee, and Thomas Edison received nary a reference. Similarly, columnist John Leo slammed the standards for asking students to learn about such allegedly trivial figures as Mercy Otis Warren ("a minor poet and playwright" included only "so the founders of the nation won't seem so distressingly male") and Ebenezer MacIntosh, a shoemaker and leader of the Stamp Act demonstrations ("a brawling street lout of the 1760s" mentioned merely because he was "anti-elitist"). National Center for History in the Schools, National Standards for United States History: Exploring the American Experience (Los Angeles, 1994); Wiener, "History Lesson," 9-11; Hugh Dellios, "Battle over History May Itself Prove Historic," Chicago Tribune, 30 October 1994, Perspective Section, 1; John Leo, "The Hijacking of American History," U.S. News & World Report 117 (Nov. 14, 1994): 36. For a recent comprehensive discussion of the controversy, see Nash, Crabtree, and Dunn, History on Trial. Back.

6. For some perceptive comments on the decline of nationalism, see Gary Gerstle, "Blood and Belonging," Tikkun 9 (Nov. 1994): 68ff. and Kaye, The Powers of the Past, 40-119. Back.

7. For recent defenses of liberal nationalism, see, for example, Michael Lind, The Next American Nation: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolution (New York: Free Press, 1995); David A. Hollinger, "National Solidarity at the End of the Twentieth Century: Reflections on the United States and Liberal Nationalism," Journal of American History 84 (Sept. 1997): 559-69. The case for postnationalism and transnationalism is made in such works as Arjun Appadurai, "Sovereignty Without Territoriality," in Patricia Yaeger, ed., The Geography of Identity (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996) and Saskia Sassen, The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991). Back.

8. See Duara, Rescuing History from the Nation. Back.

9. Alice Garrett, "Teaching High School History Inside and Outside the Historical Canon," in Lloyd Kramer et al., eds., Learning History in America: Schools, Cultures, and Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), 75. Back.

10. David Kobrin, Ed Abbott, John Ellinwood, and David Horton, "Learning History by Doing," Educational Leadership (Apr. 1993): 39, 40; Kobrin, "It's My Country, Too: A Proposal for a Student Historian's History of the United States," Teachers College Record 94 (Winter 1992): 334. See also David Kobrin, Beyond the Textbook: Teaching History Using Documents and Primary Sources (Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1996). Back.

11. New York Times, 5 Apr. 1995. Back.

12. National Education Association 1916 report on The Social Studies in Secondary Education, as quoted in Hazel Whitman Herzberg, "The Teaching of History" in Michael Kammen, ed., The Past Before Us: Contemporary Historical Writing in the United States (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1980), 476. Back.

13. Frisch, A Shared Authority, xx, xxii. Back.

14. John Kuo Wei Tchen, "Creating a Dialogic Museum: The Chinatown History Museum Experiment," in Ivan Karp, Christine Mullen Kreamer, and Steven D. Lavine, eds., Museums and Communities: The Politics of Public Culture (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992), 286, 301; Tchen, "Back to the Basics: Who Is Researching and Interpreting for Whom?" Journal of American History 81 (Dec. 1994): 1007. Back.

15. Barbara Franco, "Doing History in Public: Balancing Historical Fact with Public Meaning," AHA Perspectives (May/June 1995): 5-8. Back.

16. Sandra Marwick, "Learning from Each Other: Museums and Older Members of the Community--the People's Story," in Eileen Hooper-Greenhill, ed., Museum, Media, Message (New York: Routledge, 1995), 140-50. For a Canadian project, see Laurence Grant, " 'Her Stories': Working with a Community Advisory Board on a Women's History Exhibition at a Canadian Municipal Museum," Gender & History 6 (Nov. 1994): 410-18. Back.

17. For an overview of some of these projects, see Roy Rosenzweig, " 'People's History' in den Vereinigten Staaten," in Hans Heer and volker Ullrich, eds., Geschicte entdecken [History Discovered] (Rowohlt, 1985), 46-57. See also, for example, Jeremy Brecher, "A Report on Doing History from Below: The Brass Workers History Project"; Duggan, "History's Gay Ghetto"; Sonya Michel, "Feminism, Film, and Public History"; Jeffrey C. Stewart and Faith Davis Ruffins, "A Faithful Witness: Afro-American Public History in Historical Perspective, 1828-1984"; James R. Green, "Engaging in People's History: The Massachusetts History Workshop," all in Benson, Brier, and Rosenzweig, eds., Presenting the Past, 267-359; and Arthur A. Hansen, "Oral History and the Japanese American Evacuation," Journal of American History 82 (Sept. 1995): 625-39. Back.

18. Michael O'Malley and Roy Rosenzweig, "Brave New World or Blind Alley? American History on the World Wide Web," Journal of American History 84 (June 1997): 132-55. Back.

19. Franco, "Doing History in Public," 8. Back.

20. See Paul Thompson, The Voice of the Past: Oral History, 2nd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 22-71. Back.

21. Microhistorians set the everyday stories of particular individuals against larger "historical" events. For one promising example, see Dening, Mr. Bligh's Bad Language. Professional scholarship, of course, does reflect fundamental moral judgments, even while eschewing explicit discussions of moral conduct or character. On the relationship of historical narrative and moral judgments, see, for example, Hayden White, "The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality," in W. J. T. Mitchell, ed., On Narrative (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 1-23; William Cronon, "A Place for Stories: Nature, History, and Narrative," Journal of American History 78 (Mar. 1992): 1347-1376. But on the ways that "the tradition of scholarly detachment," and professional training in general, lead historians to avoid "the emotional places of history" and "the feelings of pride, anger, and loss that accompanies reflecting on the personal past," see David Glassberg, "A Sense of History," Public Historian 19 (Spring 1997): 70. Back.

22. For a series of perceptive essays focused on the ways that power shapes history, see Wallace, Mickey Mouse History. Back.

23. Megan Rosenfeld, "Clothing Industry Rips into Planned Sweatshop Exhibit," Washington Post, 12 Sept. 1997, C1; Irwin Molotosky, "Furor Builds Over Sweatshop Exhibition," New York Times, 30 Sept. 1997, 20; Kristin Young, "Debate over Smithsonian Exhibit Heats Up," Apparel News, 29 Aug. 1997, 8. Back.

24. Quoted in Franco, "Doing History in Public," 7. Back.

25. Linda Shopes, "Oral History and Community Involvement: The Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Project," in Benson, Brier, and Rosenzweig, eds., Presenting the Past, 249-63. Back.

26. Mission Hill and the Miracle of Boston (Boston: Cine Research, 1979). Back.

27. Robert D. Putnam, "Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital," Journal of Democracy 6 (Jan. 1995): 65-78. Putnam's work raises a host of complex questions that go well beyond this discussion. For some perceptive critiques, see, for example, Michael Schudson, "What If Civic Life Didn't Die?" and Theda Skocpol, "Unravelling from Above," both in American Prospect 25 (Mar./Apr. 1996): 17-25. Back.

28. I draw this phrase from David Hollinger, "How Wide the Circle of We? American Intellectuals and the Problem of Ethnos Since World War II," American Historical Review 98 (Apr. 1993): 317-37. Hollinger is concerned with the narrowing from a universalist species-centered discourse to an ethnos-centered discourse, and my own focus is on a further narrowing of the "we" to the family. Back.

29. I borrow this phrase from Anderson, Imagined Communities. My thanks to Nancy Grey Osterud and Ken Cmiel for suggestions that shaped ideas in this paragraph and some other sections of these afterthoughts. Back.

30. Joan W. Scott provides a well-known critique of the category of "experience" in "Experience," Critical Inquiry 17 (Summer 1991): 773-97. For a perceptive effort to examine more empirically how experience might be mediated by language and culture, see Regina Kunzel, "Pulp Fictions and Problem Girls: Reading and Rewriting Single Pregnancy in the Postwar United States," American Historical Review 100 (Dec. 1995): 1465-1487. Back.

31. Shopes,"Oral History," 252. Shopes also notes that "people's sense of their own history is private, personal, and grounded in the family and therefore not congenial to institutional frameworks." Back.

32. Harvey Kaye offers some thoughtful comments on the ways that "the powers of the past" can break "the tyranny of the present" in chapter 5 of The Powers of the Past. Back.



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