History in the Making: An Absorbing Look at How American History Has Changed in the Telling Over the Last 200 Years

Kyle Ward, Author New Press $26.95 (374p) ISBN 978-1-59558-044-3
For this fascinating history of history, author and professor Ward (History Lessons) examined scores of textbooks published between 1794 and 1999 to see how the same American historical periods, events or figures have been portrayed at different times throughout the nation's past, uncovering startling discrepancies in writers' versions of everything from slavery to Vietnam. Ward prefaces each chapter, broken down by event (""The Boston Massacre,"" ""Witchcraft in the Colonies,"" ""The Trail of Tears,"" ""McCarthyism"") with a summary of how a particular incident has been retold over the years. He then provides excerpts from a variety of texts, each with a scene-setting description that helps put the selection into context for present-day readers. In many cases, shifting biases, politics and cultural preferences (loaded with stereotypes and insensitive depictions of ethnic groups) have altered history's presentation over time, as later texts tend to prove earlier writings overly embellished or outright false. It's all enough to lead history buffs to ponder not only how history will treat, say, the Bush administration 50 years from now, but also whether they can actually believe what they read. Readers who found the similar (but far narrower) Lies My Teacher Told Me a sobering look at the shortcomings of American history books will come away even more disconcerted here.
Reviewed on: 10/01/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 374 pages - 978-1-59558-215-7
Paperback - 604 pages - 978-1-4587-2992-7
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