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History's Memory: Writing Americas Past, 1880-1980 by Ellen Fitzpatrick

By Ellen Fitzpatrick

Fanatics and critics either have appeared to the political upheavals of the Nineteen Sixties to provide an explanation for fresh variations in old learn. yet how new, in truth, are our modern ways to the examine and writing of yank heritage? this query lies on the middle of History's reminiscence, Ellen Fitzpatrick's sweeping research of the previous century of yankee ancient writing. via cautious exam of countless numbers of ancient essays and books, Fitzpatrick has exposed amazing continuities within the writing of yankee historical past. The contributions of prior students, a few of them outdoors the mainstream of the old career, show that curiosity within the historical past of ladies, African american citizens, local american citizens, and the operating type has been long-standing. no matter if within the revolutionary era's consciousness to problems with type, or within the renewed challenge with local american citizens within the Nineteen Thirties and Forties, Fitzpatrick demonstrates that over the last century historians have usually grappled with matters that we expect of at the present time as cutting edge. This reinterpretation of a century of yank old writing demanding situations the concept that the politics of the hot previous by myself explains the politics of heritage. Fitzpatrick bargains a sensible ancient point of view on modern day heated debates, and reclaims the lengthy line of historians who tilled the wealthy and various soil of our prior.

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For some historians, such upheaval served as an occasion to emphasize how American history affirmed the United States’ clear identity as an exceptional society. 4 Although late-nineteenth-century historians moved slowly and more cautiously than many of their contemporaries in the social sciences, some voiced at least a rhetorical conviction that the mission of modern history needed to be squared with the realities of mass industrial society. In the 1880s and 1890s not many professional historians carved out of their sense of contemporary America an agenda for social history.

It is so particular, so minute, so extraordinary. The prospect of fulfilling such ambitious aims exhilarated Eggleston. To his daughter he enthused of his planned history: “I am ripe for it. ”46 There was no greater cure for his high spirits than immersion in this daunting task. In fact, although Eggleston was only forty-three years old at the time he began his research, he was in poor health—a state that the project he undertook did little to improve. He explored records and manuscripts in historical societies, state archives, the Library of Congress, the British Museum and Public Record Office, and the Bibliothèque Nationale to construct his history of colonial society, the first of several planned studies.

Entries detailing “the election of hog-reeves, the seats in the meeting-house, the 24 • Industrial Society and the Imperatives of Modern History schoolhouse at the north end, the highway by Dea. Smith’s house, the minister’s salary and firewood” would provide historians with a treasure trove of information. ” Such local affairs might seem “parochial,” Jameson admitted, but by combining many such data, obtained from different towns, we get a solid basis not only for a description of society at any given time, but for a description of the constitution, or, at any rate, of those numerous departments of human life which are common to social history and to constitutional history.

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