The Decline of the Study of History

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by Neil Godfrey

Few historians would quarrel with the notion that more historical knowledge makes for smarter public policy. Few would contest the idea that a historically uninformed population is more susceptible to conspiratorial thinking and an inability to differentiate “fake news” from the real thing. Yet academic historians simply are not focusing their efforts on some of the issues that matter most to the fate of the United States and the international system today. Instead of possessing deep historical knowledge that serves as the intellectual foundation for effective policy and informed debate, the nation risks worsening historical ignorance with all its attendant dangers.

From . . .

The Historical Profession is Committing Slow-Motion Suicide


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Neil Godfrey

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5 thoughts on “The Decline of the Study of History”

  1. There is a benefit to the divorce of history per se from the formulation of public policy. To often the search for truth has been subordinated to the service of a nation, religion or other cause. History from the beginning to the present has often been more of an exercise in myth making than an objective attempt to understand events.

  2. I think intellectual history is interesting, like the history of Philosophy, or a certain period in literary history. I couldn’t care less whether a certain type of hammer was used by group X in the bronze age. To each her own, though.

  3. In America the only thing that matters is maximizing profits. Anything that isn’t associated with getting rich or profit maximization is considered meaningless. Furthermore, American culture is now completely divorced from the past or any kind of organic community driven culture. American culture is a product of corporations. Corporations have no interest in the past or any genuine reflection on meaning or context.

    For corporations the goal is to make their corporate universe the context of our lives. Americans now probably know more about the “Marvel Universe”, “Star Wars”, “Harry Potter”, etc. than reality. What matters in America is only what can be turned into a commodity. If you can’t patent or copyright it, then corporations have no interest in it, and thus they have no interest in acknowledging it.

    This is going to really a be a huge issue for the current generation of children, who will be the first generation to grow up essentially fully immersed in corporate reality, with very little context of a world outside of marketing and profit manipulation. Virtually every single interaction and story that American children experience today is mediated by corporations on a for-profit basis, from video games to movies to ubiquitous marketing to theme parks, etc. Even American public schools are taken over by corporations these days, with many of the extra-curricular activities and events being sponsored by corporations and billed as events brought to the children by corporations.

    Just look at our largest national parade, the MACY’S Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is just a massive marketing campaign filled with corporate mascots. For our children, “history” is knowing when various products came to market or what events took place in a copyrighted corporate-created universe.

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