History in the Making: An Absorbing Look at How American History Has Changed in the Telling over the Last 200 Years

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9781595580443: History in the Making: An Absorbing Look at How American History Has Changed in the Telling over the Last 200 Years
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From the widely acclaimed co-author of History Lessons, an examination of how the way we tell the story of our country has changed over time.

In this absorbing look at how the telling of American history has changed over the past three hundred years, historian Kyle Ward juxtaposes excerpts from U.S. history textbooks of different eras to compare how the same event or historical figure has been portrayed differently at different times in our nation's history.

From the Boston Massacre to antebellum slavery, the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor to the stock market crash of 1929, Ward uncovers unexpected and often dramatic shifts of interpretation corresponding to prevailing attitudes at the time each textbook was written. History in the Making is the history of history—a stark reminder that even history itself changes over time.

For anyone whose view of history was turned on its ear by James Loewen's bestselling Lies My Teacher Told Me, here is striking, firsthand evidence of the shifting biases, politics, and cultural preferences in both our understanding of our own history and in what we teach our children about the past.

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About the Author:

Kyle Ward is an assistant professor of history and political science at Vincennes University, a co-author of History Lessons, and the author of In the Shadow of Glory. He lives in Terre Haute, Indiana.

From Publishers Weekly:

For this fascinating history of history, author and professor Ward (History Lessons) examined scores of textbooks published between 1794 and 1999 to see how the same American historical periods, events or figures have been portrayed at different times throughout the nation's past, uncovering startling discrepancies in writers' versions of everything from slavery to Vietnam. Ward prefaces each chapter, broken down by event ("The Boston Massacre," "Witchcraft in the Colonies," "The Trail of Tears," "McCarthyism") with a summary of how a particular incident has been retold over the years. He then provides excerpts from a variety of texts, each with a scene-setting description that helps put the selection into context for present-day readers. In many cases, shifting biases, politics and cultural preferences (loaded with stereotypes and insensitive depictions of ethnic groups) have altered history's presentation over time, as later texts tend to prove earlier writings overly embellished or outright false. It's all enough to lead history buffs to ponder not only how history will treat, say, the Bush administration 50 years from now, but also whether they can actually believe what they read. Readers who found the similar (but far narrower) Lies My Teacher Told Me a sobering look at the shortcomings of American history books will come away even more disconcerted here.
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