Vaguely a Musing: History as She is Spoke

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

History, they say, is written by the winners, but history textbooks, it seems, are written by a bunch of losers. I’ll grant that there really is no good way of putting events disparate in time and space into a coherent structure. Still, one could avoid, for example, going into detail about the Lindbergh kidnapping at the beginning of a chapter while not describing the invention of the airplane until the last pages of that chapter, as the history textbook I used in high school did.

[A history textbook I looked over recently] has a section about the Middle East in which the narrative jumps from something like 10,000 years ago to 5000 years ago to 4000 years ago to 3500 years ago as if this all happened in about two days. The book covered five centuries of the Babylonian kingdoms in two terse paragraphs. If those authors had continued at that pace, those same two paragraphs could explain everything that has happened in the Western Hemisphere since the voyages of Columbus.

[20080328: The rest of this was meant to be an essay, but it would take at least four revisions to be any good.]


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