The Making of History?

Based on the review by Eric Foner (here), Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory by David W. Blight seems to convey the impression that its a book which has documented the making of the Civil War history. That in itself sounds a bit peculiar, no? How do you document the making of a Civil War history? Isn’t history made by what’s happened? How do you make a history?

Well, according to David Blight or Eric Foner in this case (it’s his review), history of the Civil War is made through battling not with guns and swords, but with mouths and influence. David Blight implies that history that is passed down is not affected by what’s truly happened, but in reality affected by the minds of those who have the power politically. With methods such as writing down only selective history and silently (maybe even unknowingly) input one’s own personal bias, history that people come to know are not always correct.

This book that David Blight has written is a very intriguing and fascinating sounding book. It has definitely peaked my interest with its seemingly detailed documentation of the “behind the scenes” work of politicians and their influence over what’s in our history books. That of which surprisingly still happens today with the latest example being the Texas Textbook Debate. Who might benefit from reading such a book as this? Everyone. There is no reason of which I can see of anyone actually not benefiting from reading this book. Some might gain a new perspective on how they view history, some might have their ideas and theories strengthened and even those who don’t care at all will gain the benefit of reading a book/documentary. What’s to lose?

Based on his review, it was quite evident that Eric Foner thoroughly enjoyed David Blight’s book. It was made extremely clear in the final 2 paragraphs of the review when he thought that “the book is so persuasive overall that one regrets that Blight did not try to bring it up to the present”. Foner clearly enjoyed the book and wished it would extend to present day, simply because he believes that our “history” is being touched by those with no rights to change it. No one should have the power or influence to be able to choose what’s written down and considered history. By doing so, they are changing the views and ideology of the billions that will read and interpret it as “history” when it’s clearly not.

The book review details and highlights the importance of historical memory. It states that historical memory is easily manipulated and controlled from various sources such as politics. Historical memory is hard to be trusted with the example that Blight used being the film Birth of a Nation which glorifies the Ku Klux Klan.

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