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May 16, 2008


Chris Williams

I reckon that this is not true at all. We construct ourselves with relation to history all the time. This is especially the case for the history of public institutions. Of course, it's not always _true_ history (insofar as anything can be true and given the limits to knowledge in general and historical knowledge in particular, etc).


Are you coming over all Burkean?




I wonder you can't find sufficient explanation for Judt's claiming that we ignore history in the fact that he's a historian. Every discipline feels under-valued.

One sense in which we certainly do is that it gets a smaller percentage of the time at school, because there's a lot more other stuff to teach. In the days of greek and latin, there wasn't much science to teach.

That's not to say that it wouldn't be a good idea for politicians to take a little more notice of what went wrong last time. But it would be nice if they'd take a little more notice of things like science and human decency too.

Rob Spear

'tis because we've given up being a nation state: the justification of the State that it is needed to protect the proud nation of Britain against malevolent foreigners is no longer fashionable, and is replaced with the idea that it exists as a kind of universal charity for those individuals that happen to live within its borders. As such, the State no longer emphasizes glorious history of heroic British people, but instead concentrates on sympathetic response to interminable suffering of incorrigibly pitiful.

Chris Williams

Judt might be taking this position because he's a professional historian. But I disagree with him and I'm a professional historian too. It looks like we'll have to engage with some evidence, then.

I'll cite you: WW2 anniversary mania; preserving old technology; the steady increase in memorials to wars that are already over; 'historical' fiction in text and on telly; explosion of interest in genealogy.

Matt Munro

I think this is the first post on this blog that I agree with 100%. My only question is how you square historical determinism with a marxist perspective. There is, you see, a contradiction.
"The great lesson of history is that nothing ever changes" (10 points if anyone can cite the reference).
What this means is that innate "human nature" drives behaviours which cause the same problems to recurr an infinitly just in different historical clothes. Marx did not accept a conception of a universal or generisable "human nature" other than in terms of groups of individual being shaped by their cultural environs (simplistically a blank slate model of self), in which context history does indeed become irrelevent.


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