Friday, November 16, 2007

A Problem With Early American Historiography?

Over the yars I have noticed that the influences of politics, religion, etc have managed to infiltrate the study of history. There may be no better example of this than the historiography of the American Revolution. One only needs to brouse youtube to realize how polarizing people have become over a variety of issues. It is irresponsible to "tweak" history to fit a particular agenda, but it is being done every day. The religious right in this country strives to depict our Founding Fathers as hard-core Christians (in a very modern sense by the way), while the liberal left has made our Founders out to be purely motivated by secularism.

To be honest, I am outraged at both the religious right and the liberal left. They both see no need for compromise or for an objective view of historical events. Instead, they both inject their own doctrine by misquoting or misrepresenting those of the past.

The reality is that our nation's founders were NOT what we wish them to be. Colonial America was a completely different word. Social structures, religious and political ideologies, and cultural norms were very different then than they are today. To compare the two only leads to problems. If you were to ask a colonial citizen what their definition of "patriotism" "liberty" "freedom" or "independence" was, they would give a very different answer than somebody who has lived in our modern world. Our concepts about God, religion, politics, freedom, equality, society, gender and America have all changed. It's about time people understood that.

5 comments:

Corazon said...

I think you are right about the fact that Americans are currently very poliarized on a number of issues, and that this sometimes trickles down into historical interpretation. The question that has always bugged me (and is asked by politicians all the time) is "What would our Founding Fathers think or do if..." That is a bogus question because, like today, people are individuals. I think it is clear from any study of the American Revolution that the Founding Fathers though many different things. They would probably do the same if they were here today.

Pretty intense post! I sense that you have a strong opinion on this matter! =)

Brian Tubbs said...

I've taken some time to mull over this article, and I've come to the conclusion (respectfully) that it is exaggerated.

Yes, the Founding Fathers were individuals - not a collective whole that thought alike.

Yes, colonial times were different from modern times.

Yes, people of today - both on the Left and the Right - have read INTO the founding era much of what THEY want to see and hear. Both conservatives and liberals are guilty of misquoting or misinterpreting things from that era.

HOWEVER....

The early American period is NOT unreachable and there ARE lessons from that era which we can apply to today.

Moreoever, there were areas of AGREEMENT among the Founders - areas of agreement that don't necessarily exist today (and, I think, should).

And, finally, is the past REALLY that different from the present? People are still people. Much has changed in terms of clothing, technology, language, etc., but basic human impulses are still the same. What's more, there are still constants THROUGHOUT human history, such as love and principles and convictions and such. These constants can inform and inspire us.

So, I like the article - but I think it goes too far in making its points.

Lindsey Shuman said...

I think colonial times were more different that we realize. Social, economic, religous and cultural structures were completely different. That is why modern day political agendas can't get it right...they simply don't relate.

Brian Tubbs said...

Lindsey, the times were different, but the people of that era are not unreachable. We can know many things for certain about the founding era, and we can glean some principles applicable to today.

The inspiring words of the Declaration of Independence, for example, still move us (and should) today.

victor said...

i really happy for this thought ,, thanks

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victor
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