These musings by historian Bailyn, a recipient of both a Pulitzer Prize (Voyagers to the West) and a National Book Award (The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson), are based on informal discussions he held as a Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College. He thoughtfully remarks upon the validity of historical data that are now made available by computer technology, the creative differences among writing fiction, biography and history, and the importance of placing people and events within the contexts of their times. Bailyn also discusses the impacts of women's studies and current political ideologies on his field. His comments are informed by his passion for teaching history and by his belief that knowledge of the past is crucial to understanding the present. History Book Club alternate. (Apr.)
This slender volume is based on two tape-recorded interviews with the renowned Harvard historian conducted in 1991 while he was a Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College. This "conversation" provides a fascinating if somewhat rambling account of Bailyn's views of the nature of historical writing and teaching. Although specialists will find little that is new here, two points stand out: his concern that testing students in history courses overemphasizes historiography at the expense of "History," and his fierce belief that written history, in spite of its lack of pure objectivity, is not just another fiction, as some postmodernists would have us believe. An interesting series of ruminations that should be required reading for all beginning history majors and teachers.-Anthony O. Edmonds, Ball State Univ., Muncie, Ind.