Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Index for September Issue of Historically Speaking

Randall Stephens

It will be a little bit before readers have the latest issue of Historically Speaking in hand, but in the meantime have a look at what will be between the covers.  The September 2012 issue will feature conversations with historians James Banner, Ilya Grinberg, George H. Nash, and Andrew Lambert.  It also includes essays on race and religion, colonial Britain, and religion and politics as well as a two forums on war.

David Lowenthal's "The Past Made Present" is the lead essay.  He explores themes laid out in the 2nd edition of his forthcoming Cambridge University Press book The Past Is a Foreign Country. Writes Lowenthal:
Branson, Mo, theme park Silver Dollar City. Photo by Stephens, August 2012.

Two opposing attitudes dominate recent discourse on the use and misuse of history. Many take refuge in the past as an antidote to present disappointments and future fears. They hark back nostalgically or formulaically to the fancied benefits, even to the fearsome burdens, of times of lost purity and simplicity, lapsed immediacy and certitude, in some Golden Age of classical serenity, Christian faith, pastoral plenitude, or childhood innocence. Sojourning in the past seems preferable to living in the present.

And given the mounting surfeit of heritage sites and structures, more and more of the past is accessible. Critics find the collective legacy crushingly voluminous, backward looking, and crippling to present enterprise. Fifty years ago architectural historian Reyner Banham condemned “the load of obsolete buildings that Europe is humping along on its shoulders [as] a bigger drag on the live culture of our continent than obsolete nationalisms or obsolete moral codes.” The load is now heavier. In much of England one feels hardly ever out of sight of a listed building, a protected archaeological site, a museum-worthy work of art. The treasured past is said to overwhelm French culture and politics. “Everything is indiscriminately conserved and archived,” notes a historian of the patrimony. “We no longer make history,” charges Jean Baudrillard. “We protect it like an endangered masterpiece.” The Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas calls preservation a dangerous epidemic. Noting that UNESCO and similar bodies sequester one-sixth of the Earth’s surface, with more to come, he terms heritage a metastasizing cancer.

The popular alternative to wallowing in the past is to dismiss it entirely. The past has ever-diminishing salience for lives driven by today’s feverish demands and delights. The sensory-laden penchant for computer gaming, coupled with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, betoken a here-and-now environment dominated by raw sensations, in which “we live perpetually in the present.” Being up-to-date now not only matters most, it is all that matters; knowing or understanding the past is an impediment in the present rat race. . . .

Historically Speaking (September 2012):

The Past Made Present
David Lowenthal

British Perspectives on the War of 1812

The War of 1812 in the Grand Sweep of Military History
Jeremy Black

“Faithful History”: British Representations of the War of 1812
Andrew D. Lambert

The Naval War of 1812: An Interview with Andrew Lambert
Conducted by Donald A. Yerxa

From Light to White: The Place and Race of Jesus in Antebellum America
Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey

Freedom Betrayed: An Interview with George H. Nash about Herbert Hoover’s Magnum Opus
Conducted by Donald A. Yerxa

Along the Hindu Kush: Warren Hastings, the Raj, and the Northwest Frontier
Kenneth W. Harl

The Soviet Air Force in World War II

Out of the Blue: The Forgotten Story of the Soviet Air Force in World War II
Von Hardesty

Red Phoenix Rising: An Interview with Ilya Grinberg
Conducted by Donald A. Yerxa

In Search of the City on a Hill  
Richard Gamble

On Being a Historian: An Interview with James M. Banner, Jr.
Conducted by Donald A. Yerxa

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