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The Uses and Abuses of History de Margaret…

The Uses and Abuses of History (original: 2008; edição: 2009)

de Margaret MacMillan

Séries: Joanne Goodman Lectures (2007)

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5192435,600 (3.4)36
Explores the ways in which history has been used to influence people and government, focusing on how reportage of past events has been manipulated to justify religious movements and political campaigns.
Título:The Uses and Abuses of History
Autores:Margaret MacMillan
Informação:Profile Books Ltd (2009), Paperback, 256 pages
Coleções:Sua biblioteca

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Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History (Modern Library Chronicles) de Margaret MacMillan (2008)


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I started Dangerous Games in the hopes that it could be a useful introduction for students to how the past has been used and abused over time, both by professional historians and by politicians and the general public. Sadly this isn't even serviceable. While Margaret MacMillan writes in a very succinct and straightforward manner, her conclusions are often banal and the point of view laid out here is frequently almost shockingly naive—and that's the nicest I can say about it.

There's a careful attempt to seem scrupulously neutral when discussing the history of colonialism and the oppression of indigenous peoples in North America and Australia—some see this as X; others see this as Y—the disingenuous nature of which is revealed when MacMillan has no qualms about (rightly!) calling out post-WWII German, Austrian and Japanese popular amnesia about the atrocities committed by those nations. I found little evidence of a deep engagement with the historiography produced by indigenous historians or historians of colour. MacMillan criticises the turn of professional historians away from writing solely political or military history towards more social and cultural studies—the occasional study is all well and good, she suggests, but it's not proper history. This of course entirely ignores the fact that many historians still write—and teach—political and military history, and that the writing (and teaching) of such histories can only be made better through a more thorough and honest grounding in the contexts of its time.

And while perhaps it's unfair to chastise MacMillan, writing in the late 2000s, for not having predicted the rise of Flat Earthers when she wrote that "arguments over the position of the earth and the sun" belong to the past, it's mindboggling that she then goes on to assert that scientific racism and sexism are things of the past, when sadly we have daily proof that they are powerful forces still.

In her epilogue, MacMillan concludes by writing that the study of history is a necessity because it teaches us "humility, skepticism, and awareness of ourselves." Yes indeed—but only if we're willing to step outside of ourselves first. ( )
  siriaeve | Feb 14, 2021 |
Een verzameling lezingen uit 2007. Bevat niet zoveel nieuws, en op een bepaald moment pleit MacMillan toch wel heel eenzijdig voor zuiver academische geschiedschrijving . Maar de laatste hoofdstukken zijn dan weer erg interessant, met een analyse van hoe voorbeelden uit het verleden (zoals het trauma van München 1938 nadien in zeer uiteenlopende opzichten gebruikt en misbruikt zijn).
En natuurlijk kan ik de slotconclusie alleen maar delen: “If the study of history does nothing more than teach us humility, scepticism and awareness of ourselves, then it has done something useful. We must continue to examine our own assumptions and those of others and ask, where's the evidence? Or, is there another explanation? We should be wary of grand claims in history's name or those to have uncovered the truth once and for all. In the end, my only advice is use it, enjoy it, but always handle history with care.” ( )
  bookomaniac | Dec 20, 2016 |
This does exactly what it says on the cover, although it's rather more about the abuses and misuses than about the uses. The chief villain of the piece is nationalism/patriotism - the reason why so much of history is falsified or, at the very least, used selectively. Margaret MacMillan's short book is stacked with examples, many from North America, including her native Canada. But she also covers the way the Iraq War should never have taken place if the politicians had listened to the experts on the region's history. She also covers the conflicting histories provided by the two sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
In the end, the book is a forceful endorsement of the importance of proper historical study and analysis - studies that look at the complexities of situations rather than going for a black and white, heroes and villains approach. The most damning sections deal with the way that governments of all kinds (not just the despotic ones) manipulate school history curricula to tell stories of nationalistic pride and try to edit out the murkier aspects of the past. Instead, she speaks out for historical study which is open to a range of interpretations and invites constant questioning.
My only disappointment is that she doesn't say more about the influence of power relationships in whose History we get to study - whether it's the history of the wealthy elites or one that's open to the lives and experiences of ordinary working people. ( )
  stephengoldenberg | Apr 6, 2016 |
There isn't all that much to this book, although it has a few good phrases: "... much use of history, but is history much use?" "distinction between a museum and a memorial." The thesis is that history is more nuanced than people generally pretend and that it is used to justify or to guide important actions. That is definitely a problem with history, not only does it seem fractal-like in its complexity, but radically different interpretations can be put on just about any age or event and conflicting explanations can be given for almost anything. And I'm already very aware of specific instances where history is used to justify all sorts of things, from the existence of Israel to various assaults on civil rights in the US. I knew less about the analogies that George Bush and Tony Blair drew between various political leaders and situations from the past and various current ones; they seem too facile for such serious business as going to war.

Further review, 2020 August: She would probably add the 1619 project, etc. to her list of examples.
Review of physical book:

Chapter 1: The History Craze
Points out that people are interested in history and that history books are really selling. This explains David McCullough's wealth. We are interested in our own stories and in the history that made us. We also look to history for lessons that we can make use of. Discusses the determined activities of preservation societies. Discusses the interest people have in their genetic makeup. (Makes reference to someone who is discovered to be a descendant of Genghis Khan. This can't be absolutely known and if it is true, it's something shared w/ very many according to a recent book on computational anthropology that I have read.) Claims that during the Cold War, history seemed to have come to a standstill; after the breakup of the Soviet Union, new civil wars got started and people realized that history was ongoing and history became interesting again. ( )
  themulhern | Feb 24, 2016 |
Not what I was expecting. I was looking for something with vingettes of particular times in history and this was more a thesis as to why history is important and the different ways to view it. ( )
  tmscott13 | Jan 23, 2016 |
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Explores the ways in which history has been used to influence people and government, focusing on how reportage of past events has been manipulated to justify religious movements and political campaigns.

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