Wednesday, January 12, 2011

History and Heritage

From Gordon Wood’s “No Thanks for the Memories,” a review of Jill Lepore’s The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History (The New York Review of Books): 
some intellectuals have come to believe that historical scholarship over the past generation has more than fulfilled its role of destroying memory, and they have reacted with alarm. ... Memory, or what [David] Lowenthal calls “heritage,” may be, like the Tea Party’s use of the Founding, a worthless sham, its credos fallacious, even perverse; but, wrote Lowenthal, “heritage, no less than history, is essential to knowing and acting.” It fosters community, identity, and continuity, and in the end makes possible history itself. “By means of it we tell ourselves who we are, where we came from, and to what we belong.”