Revisionist History

Dec 2017
357
Florida
The NYT's 1619 Project is a classic example of what the OP was writing about. They didn't bother getting the input of the leading experts on the period, and as a result they came out with a version of "history" that is heavy on grievance culture and light on the facts. I've seen numerous articles from professional historians lambasting the project for its revisionism, including these three interviews on that well-known reactionary conservative site: the World Socialist Web Site.

Gordon Wood
James McPherson
James Oakes
What is revisionist about the 1619 project?
 
Dec 2017
357
Florida
Well, I just linked you three interview transcripts with leading scholars in their fields. Read them and you'll see. Do you want me to copy-paste a wall of text?
From my cursory reading, they all seem to be complaining that the 1619 project is shallow in its interpretation and lacks discussion over the complexities of slavery. So far none of them have called it revisionist. You did, justify your claim with evidence.
 
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Jan 2012
487
South Midlands in Merlin's Isle of Gramarye
I have in the past few days given someone a fast and I fear, almost brutal introduction into how the feudal system worked. How they choose to analyse it and follow up on my suggestions is wholly their affair. One can only lead a horse to water as it must decide to drink for itself.
It is also inappropriate to imply or infer opinions to other people without clear evidence. I have sadly found history, like many other subjects is full of bounders, the jealous, creeps and others. Much like normal life, then. It has always been like this.
My history teacher at school was a Communist. He thought himself very clever, all I saw was a deluded individual. He came to hate me. I just got better grades at the public exams than he said I could. Consequently I went on to study economics and politics instead, as I thought history was infected by stooges such as him. I was wrong. History is wonderful.
In my times I have had articles spiked by senior academics who refused to accept my propositions even though they were soundly based on new research. Their disinclination to discuss the issues I raised was more profound than their behaviour. It wasn't so much official history they were defending but their status, position and well-being. A real historian would have followed through on my propositions and perhaps improved on them.
The most important thing is to have your own understanding of history and be able to present that intellectually without arbitrary assertions.
History belongs to us all.
 
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Jul 2019
1,048
New Jersey
From my cursory reading, they all seem to be complaining that the 1619 project is shallow in its interpretation and lacks discussion over the complexities of slavery. So far none of them have called it revisionist. You did, justify your claim with evidence.
They claim that the the Revolution was fought, not over issues of representation, but primarily to protect American slaveholders from British abolitionists. It wasn't, as Gordon Wood shows at length.
They claim that "black Americans have fought back alone ". That's a blatant lie, as McPherson points out. McPherson points toward the Quakers who were the driving force behind the abolitionist movement, but I can just as easily point to the Jews who gave their lives for black civil rights in the 1960s.

Here's Oakes talking about their treatment of the revolution:

"I don’t like great man history. Not many professional historians do. So I’m sympathetic with my colleagues who complain about “Founders Chic.” (I have the same problem in my field: Lincoln is great, but he didn’t free the slave with the stroke of his pen.) But that’s different from erasing the American Revolution, which amounts to erasing the conflict. What you’re doing by erasing abolitionism, anti-slavery politics, anti-racism, is you’re erasing the conflict. And if you erase the conflict you have no way of explaining anything that happens, and then you wind up with these terrible genetic metaphors—everything is built into the DNA and nothing changes. It’s not just ahistorical. It’s anti-historical. "

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Maybe we have different definitions of revisionism, but I'm pretty sure running roughshod over the facts to cram the history of slavery into a preconceived ideological box (which ever so happens to dovetail with the writers' politics) and radically upending the traditional understanding of American history constitutes "revisionism".

Edit: If revisionism means changing the way in we look at history, then the 1619 Project was clearly revisionist, in that it quite explicitly tries to overturn the traditional understanding of American history. Of course, the problem isn't the revisionism per se - it's the fact that it's horrifically sloppy revisionism, mustered in defense of a political agenda. But we all know that's what the OP was complaining about, semantics notwithstanding.
 
Last edited:
Dec 2017
357
Florida
They claim that the the Revolution was fought, not over issues of representation, but primarily to protect American slaveholders from British abolitionists. It wasn't, as Gordon Wood shows at length.
They claim that "black Americans have fought back alone ". That's a blatant lie, as McPherson points out. McPherson points toward the Quakers who were the driving force behind the abolitionist movement, but I can just as easily point to the Jews who gave their lives for black civil rights in the 1960s.

Here's Oakes talking about their treatment of the revolution:

"I don’t like great man history. Not many professional historians do. So I’m sympathetic with my colleagues who complain about “Founders Chic.” (I have the same problem in my field: Lincoln is great, but he didn’t free the slave with the stroke of his pen.) But that’s different from erasing the American Revolution, which amounts to erasing the conflict. What you’re doing by erasing abolitionism, anti-slavery politics, anti-racism, is you’re erasing the conflict. And if you erase the conflict you have no way of explaining anything that happens, and then you wind up with these terrible genetic metaphors—everything is built into the DNA and nothing changes. It’s not just ahistorical. It’s anti-historical. "

----------------------

Maybe we have different definitions of revisionism, but I'm pretty sure running roughshod over the facts to cram the history of slavery into a preconceived ideological box (which ever so happens to dovetail with the writers' politics) and radically upending the traditional understanding of American history constitutes "revisionism".

No, it doesn't constitute revisionism. Revisionism isn't a catch-all term for bad/unresearched "history." It's not upending traditional interpretations, they don't even have an understanding of traditional interpretations. They seem to not even know the historiography of the subject. That doesn't constitute revisionism. It's like holding finger paintings from elementary students up to a Jason Pollock painting and saying "Ya see it's not like Pollock because they didn't get the drip pattern right!" This does not constitute history.
 
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Jul 2019
1,048
New Jersey
No, it doesn't constitute revisionism. Revisionism isn't a catch-all term for bad/unresearched "history." It's not upending traditional interpretations, they don't even have an understanding of traditional interpretations. They seem to not even know the historiography of the subject. That doesn't constitute revisionism. It's like holding finger paintings from elementary students up to a Jason Pollock painting and saying "Ya see it's not like Pollock because they didn't get the drip pattern right!" This does not constitute history.
That's a fair enough point, but whether or not you like it, the NYT's project falls under the colloquial category of revisionism. In other words, that sort of shoddy historical revision is the sort of thing the OP and I were complaining about, even if you believe (and may be right) that the semantics of our complaints are incorrect. Simply put, we don't like people trying to change and distort our history to suit their own political agenda.
 
Dec 2017
357
Florida
That's a fair enough point, but whether or not you like it, the NYT's project falls under the colloquial category of revisionism. In other words, that sort of shoddy historical revision is the sort of thing the OP and I were complaining about, even if you believe (and may be right) that the semantics of our complaints are incorrect. Simply put, we don't like people trying to change and distort our history to suit their own political agenda.
Well if you feel that way, then protect the discipline. Don't let people co-opt the phrase illegitimately. If we label everything that is a "new interpretation" of history then everyone is a revisionist, even my students who think Miami is a great state. What a wonderful new interpretation!
 
Jul 2019
1,048
New Jersey
Well if you feel that way, then protect the discipline. Don't let people co-opt the phrase illegitimately. If we label everything that is a "new interpretation" of history then everyone is a revisionist, even my students who think Miami is a great state. What a wonderful new interpretation!
Like I said, it's a good point and I accept it. But for those accusing the OP of pointing to a problem which doesn't exist - well, I'd direct them to the 1619 project. However clumsily worded, the OP's complaint is a legitimate one in substance.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
6,090
Well, there is constant revision of history. And there is bad history – shoddily constructed arguments, untenable, improbable interpretations on slender bases of evidence, incompletely and/or misleadingly sourced.

Sometimes they are conflated, but not necessarily.