I have argued endlessly at this blog and in other writings that revisionism is the lifeblood of the historical profession. Over at The Washington Post, historian Michael Hattem reminds us that the founding fathers were also revisionists. Here is a taste of his piece, “Revisionist history is an American political tradition“:
Last week, the White House sponsored a conference on American history at the National Archives. Organized with little advance notice or fanfare, the conference included a few academics and members of conservative think tanks. One of the main targets of the conference was the New York Times’s 1619 Project. Panelists — as well as Vice President Pence and President Trump himself — decried the efforts of those who would “rewrite American history to teach our children that we were founded on the principle of oppression, not freedom.” This rhetoric has been a consistent feature of the culture wars for decades, as conservative media personalities and politicians routinely lament how “revisionist historians” are distorting some previous, fundamentally correct narrative of America’s founding.
But the founding generation themselves actively revised history. Whether it was rethinking the British history that informed their identities as British subjects or, later, refashioning their own colonial histories to better fit with the times, revising history was a crucial part of the American Revolution. It was also a part of the founding generation’s attempts to make the new nation work.
Read the rest here.