Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Spotlighting America’s Phony Past

This isn’t the usual way Americans spend their Fourth of July holiday, which makes it rather refreshing. As The New York Times reports, the History News Network is asking readers “to reflect not just on what is best but also what is most bogus in our nation’s history -- or at least in our nation’s history writing.
Until Friday the network’s Web site -- also home to upbeat fare like “Marist Poll Reveals Ignorance of July 4th History” and “Top Five Myths About the Fourth of July” -- is accepting nominations at for “history books that nobody should take seriously.”

On July 9 the top five nominees will be posted on the site, which is hosted by George Mason University. Readers then be asked to vote for “the least credible history book in print.” The winner -- or loser? -- will be announced on July 16, along with commentary on the finalists from various academic historians, who make up the bulk of the site’s contributors.

David Walsh, the site’s editor, said that Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Lincoln” and David Barton’s “The Jefferson Lies” (which argues, among other things, that the man who first spoke of the need for a “wall of separation” between church and state was an evangelical Christian) were currently running strong. Other nominees so far include Michael Bellesiles’s “Arming America” (which was stripped of the prestigious Bancroft Prize after Mr. Bellesiles was accused of falsifying data about early American gun ownership), Gavin Menzies’s “1421: The Year China Discovered America,” and Richard Williams’s 2006 book “Stonewall Jackson: The Black Man’s Friend,” along with various works from the now-discredited Dunning school, which held sway in the early 20th-century with its argument that Reconstruction failed because African-Americans were not capable of self-government.
Again, you have only until this coming Monday, July 9, to submit your nominations. Get to it, already!


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