The American Past: Conflicting Interpretations of the Great Issues - Vol. 1

The American Past: Conflicting Interpretations of the Great Issues - Vol. 1

The American Past: Conflicting Interpretations of the Great Issues - Vol. 1

The American Past: Conflicting Interpretations of the Great Issues - Vol. 1

Excerpt

This book has three main features: it brings into sharp focus the major issues of the American past; it presents conflicting interpretations of these issues; and it draws for its selections upon historical literature which is often relatively inaccessible to the college student. The literature presented here is taken from the professional historical journals, from periodicals of a more general nature, and from monographs and other works. Each of the items selected, in the editors' view, makes a distinct, individual contribution to our knowledge of a controversial historical problem.

For each of the great issues selected, two historians present either directly conflicting interpretations or interpretations which illuminate the whole problem from complementary, but essentially different, approaches or emphases. A glance through the table of contents will show that many of the writers represented here are among the great historians of this century. One of the purposes which the editors had in view in bringing this body of historical writing together was to introduce American college students to good historical writing upon their own past, in a sense, by their own historians, men who, in the overwhelming majority, are still living and still active in the profession. Each historian is represented by a substantial piece of writing within the limits of which he could, so to speak, move around and develop his interpretation in some depth and with that degree of sophistication which characterize the mature writing of history. The editors have deliberately avoided the snippets and shreds and the mélange of primary and secondary materials which so often typify volumes of this kind. It is hoped that it is history with style and meaning which is presented here.

The seventeen pairs of selections in Volume I, edited by Gerald S. Brown, pertain to the period before 1865; the seventeen pairs of selections in Volume II, edited by Sidney Fine, to the years since Appomattox. The two volumes are designed to supplement the textbook and the lectures in the survey course in American history. Each pair of selections is preceded by a brief introduction which places the two interpretations in their historical and historiographical setting and which points up the nature of the conflict between them. It is . . .

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