Present History

Present History

Present History

Present History

Excerpt

The title of this book needs an explanation. The two words, "present" and "history," are not usually linked so closely. The past, not the present, is supposed to be the stuff of history. Yet I have chosen this title because it suggests better than anything else the sort of thing I have tried to do in these essays, articles and reviews, all written in the last ten years. I may explain the title best by telling something about how I have worked.

I have usually written about subjects of the greatest urgency and controversy while they were still urgent and controversial. Some time had to pass, however, before I could make up my mind about what was going on and gather enough information to permit even a tentative understanding of the issues. The interval was generally more than for journalism and less than for traditional history.

My aim was to analyze present-day events historically. The events themselves were still hot, even boiling. Nevertheless, they had to be in such a state that they could be analyzed coolly with convincing documentation and reasoned judgment. Others might not agree with the judgment, but they could at least judge for themselves the evidence and reasoning on which it was based.

I have written for the reader who was no longer merely interested in the daily or even weekly ration of news; this reader wanted to understand it in some organized form and in some historical perspective. No doubt the organization and perspective would change as time went on and more information or insight became available. Life cannot wait, however, for historians to gather enough evidence to satisfy them or to make up their minds once they get it. Even a preliminary organization and perspective represent an advance, however provisional. We must . . .

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