Remembering America: How We Have Told Our Past

Remembering America: How We Have Told Our Past

Remembering America: How We Have Told Our Past

Remembering America: How We Have Told Our Past

Synopsis

American history is ubiquitous, underscoring everything from food to travel to architecture and design. It is also emotionally charged, frequently crossing paths with political and legal issues. In Remembering America, Lawrence R. Samuel examines the place that American history has occupied within education and popular culture and how it has continually shaped and reflected our cultural values and national identity. The story of American history, Samuel explains, is not a straight line but rather one filled with twists and turns and ups and downs, its narrative path as winding as that of the United States as a whole. Organized around six distinct eras of American history ranging from the 1920s to the present, Samuel shows that our understanding of American history has often generated struggle and contention as ideologically opposed groups battled over ownership of the past. As women and minorities gained greater power and a louder voice in the national conversation, our perspectives on American history became significantly more multicultural, bringing race, gender, and class issues to the forefront. These new interpretations of our history helped to reshape our identity on both a national and an individual level. Samuel argues that the fight for ownership of our past, combined with how those owners have imparted history to our youth, crucially affects who we are. Our interpretation and expression of our country's past reflects how that self-identity has changed over the last one hundred years and created a strong sense of our collective history--one of the few things Americans all have in common.

Excerpt

This book is, as the title suggests, a cultural history of American history. More so than intellectual, social, or public histories, which have their own respective agendas, cultural history focuses on the ways in which a particular subject has found expression across a wide swath of everyday life. Surprisingly, no cultural history of American history currently exists, making this admittedly ambitious project an important one. There are innumerable books about some aspect of the history of the United States and no shortage of historiographies of and textbooks on the subject, of course, but no one has yet attempted to tell the fascinating history of American history itself as it was expressed in popular culture and in education.

The irony that the history of American history has been underserved has not been lost. Scholars of all disciplines tend to focus on their area of specialization, often giving little thought to the role of their field within the culture as a whole. American historians past and present have in general overlooked how ripe for study their own subject is, failing to locate it within a broad, contemporary context. A cultural history of American history directly addresses this void by presenting a narrative of the field from both scholarly and popular points of view. With history all around us, a ubiquitous presence in everything, from food to travel to architecture and design, it makes sense that someone takes the time to document its own, compelling story. With this book readers will hopefully gain a much better sense of the important role that the nation’s history has played within American Life.

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