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The Ever-Changing Past: Why All History is Revisionist History

James Banner’s book, the first full-length work on revisionist history since 1929, explains why, since the time of ancient Greece, historians have disagreed with others’ interpretations of the past. He argues that written history has never been, inert, certain, and beyond reinterpretation nor does it arise more on the Left than on the Right. Moreover, it’s to be expected that different minds from different places in different contexts never see the past the same way nor, because of the workings of memory, perception, and thought, can history ever be objective. History thus remains an enduring source of dispute for being essential to individuals’ differing places in the world, their visions and hopes, their searches for meaning, and their groups’ and nations’ sense of identity and destiny. In open societies, such disputes are to be welcomed as a sign of robust public life.

Date & Time

Monday
May. 3, 2021
4:00pm – 5:30pm ET

Location

Zoom Webinar

Overview

James Banner’s book, the first full-length work on revisionist history since 1929, explains why, since the time of ancient Greece, historians have disagreed with others’ interpretations of the past. He argues that written history has never been, inert, certain, and beyond reinterpretation nor does it arise more on the Left than on the Right. Moreover, it’s to be expected that different minds from different places in different contexts never see the past the same way nor, because of the workings of memory, perception, and thought, can history ever be objective. History thus remains an enduring source of dispute for being essential to individuals’ differing places in the world, their visions and hopes, their searches for meaning, and their groups’ and nations’ sense of identity and destiny. In open societies, such disputes are to be welcomed as a sign of robust public life.

Cofounder of the National History Center, James M. Banner, Jr., is a visiting scholar in the history department of George Washington University. The author of Being a Historian: An Introduction to the Professional World of History (2012), and most recently the editor of Presidential Misconduct: From George Washington to Today (2019), he has under development a play, “Good and Faithful Servants,” adapted from the correspondence between John and Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University and the National History Center) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is organized jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Woodrow Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks its anonymous individual donors and institutional partners (the George Washington University History Department and the Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest) for their continued support.


Hosted By

History and Public Policy Program

The History and Public Policy Program strives to make public the primary source record of 20th and 21st century international history from repositories around the world, to facilitate scholarship based on those records, and to use these materials to provide context for classroom, public, and policy debates on global affairs.  Read more

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