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History's Memory: Writing America's Past, 1880-1980

History's Memory: Writing America's Past, 1880-1980

by Ellen FitzpatrickEllen Fitzpatrick


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Enthusiasts and critics both have looked to the political upheavals of the 1960s to explain recent transformations in historical study. But how new, in fact, are our contemporary approaches to the study and writing of American history? This question lies at the heart of History's Memory, Ellen Fitzpatrick's sweeping study of the past century of American historical writing.

Through careful examination of hundreds of historical essays and books, Fitzpatrick has uncovered striking continuities in the writing of American history. The contributions of earlier scholars, some of them outside the mainstream of the historical profession, reveal that interest in the history of women, African Americans, Native Americans, and the working class has been long-standing. Whether in the Progressive era's attention to issues of class, or in the renewed concern with Native Americans in the 1930s and 1940s, Fitzpatrick demonstrates that over the past century historians have frequently grappled with issues that we think of today as innovative.

This reinterpretation of a century of American historical writing challenges the notion that the politics of the recent past alone explains the politics of history. Fitzpatrick offers a wise historical perspective on today's heated debates, and reclaims the long line of historians who tilled the rich and diverse soil of our past.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674016057
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 10/25/2004
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.69(w) x 8.88(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

Ellen Fitzpatrick is Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire.

Table of Contents



1. Industrial Society and the Imperatives of Modern History

2. Advancing a Progressive New History

3. Native Americans and the Moral Compass of History

4. History, Class, and Culture between the World Wars

5. The Myth of Consensus History




What People are Saying About This

Dorothy Ross

History's Memory is a fresh view of the history of American historical writing. A lively parade of historians of labor, women, race, and ethnicity can now take their place with the 'new' historians of the 1960s and '70s as pioneers in the ongoing effort to come to grips with the diversity and inequality of modern society. Fitzpatrick's timely book is a useful companion and corrective to Peter Novick's That Noble Dream.
Dorothy Ross, Johns Hopkins University

M. J. C. Taylor

The most fascinating aspect of [this] book is the fullness of its execution. Fitzpatrick examines with care and detail not only the methodology of the seminal work of US social history, but also the consequences wrought upon the scholars themselves. Due to the tenacity of the historians discussed, Americans have a richer understanding of their past. The author's writing style is clear and concise...Highly recommended.

Bernard Bailyn

The "new" history--the history of ordinary people, of minorities, of women, of African-Americans, of native Americans, of labor, and of social and economic conflict--how new is it? Ellen Fitzpatrick shows in excellent detail how old and deep a tradition in American historiography it really is, how it emerged in the 1880s, deepened in the 1920s and 30s, and reached maturity long before the so-called 'new' historians of the 1960s and 70s called it their own. Exploring the work of historians and social scientists, especially of the years before World War II, she shows the deep continuities of history 'from the bottom up' and the remarkable achievements of the scholars--some renowned, some obscure--who originated modern social history. An important part of history's memory has been recovered.
Bernard Bailyn, Harvard University

Bettye Collier-Thomas

In this meticulously researched and carefully crafted book, Ellen Fitzpatrick demonstrates that the highly touted "new history paradigm" is not so new after all. In a fair and even handed manner, she notes the accomplishments of the "new" history, carefully locating it within a long, complex, and diverse historical tradition of writing and memory. Fitzpatrick's book is a must for any historian's library. Thanks to her, we can now begin the twenty-first century with a clear knowledge of the way historians have thought about, written, and understood the American past.
Bettye Collier-Thomas, Temple University

Alan Brinkley

Ellen Fitzpatrick's intelligent and elegant examination of twentieth century historical writing is a powerful challenge to many longstanding assumptions about our intellectual traditions. It is both an important work of intellectual history and a pathbreaking history of the discipline.
Alan Brinkley, Columbia University

David Montgomery

This book should be required reading for both enthusiasts and critics of the New History of the 1960s-1980s. Fitzpatrick has explored ably the rich legacy of creative studies in the social history of the United States produced during the Progressive Era, the interwar years, and even the postwar epoch, which is usually associated with "consensus history."
David Montgomery, Yale University, Past President, The Organization of American Historians

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