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History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past
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History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  158 ratings  ·  19 reviews
From the “taming of the West” to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the portrayal of the past has become a battleground at the heart of American politics. What kind of history Americans should read, see, or fund is no longer merely a matter of professional interest to teachers, historians, and museum curators. Everywhere now, history is increasingly being held h ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 15th 1996 by Holt Paperbacks (first published August 1st 1996)
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Two narratives merged in the abortive display proposed by the Smithsonian of the Enola Gay, the bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima: the successful ending to a long and devastating war and the devastation of two Japanese cities. History is all about stories, what the tell us and what they reveal about us. The text accompanying the display originally was characteristic of what Hoffer describes as the "new History," which portrayed the United States in a more nuanced manner and with l ...more
A collection of essays by various historians responding to the 1994 controversy surrounding a planned exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum that was to be centered around the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The exhibit planned to place the plane as a transitional piece between two eras, the end of WWII, and the beginning of the Cold War. It also wanted to, most contentiously, offer the visitors a look into scholarly debate on the decision to drop t ...more
History Wars is a collection of essays centered around the failed 1995 Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's exhibit of the Enola Gay, which intended to examine intersection the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War beginning with the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The exhibit floundered when pressure from conservative politicians and veterans groups denounced it and Congress threatened to cut the museums funding.

Some of the contributing authors were c
An account of the abortive Smithsonian effort to present an exhibition featuring the B-29 'Enola Gay' for the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. The exhibition itself became part of the 'culture wars' of the 1990s--- torpedoed by a combination of conservative politicians and veterans' groups. The accusation was that the proposed exhibition, by featuring photos of the human devastation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and discussing the debates over whether the bombings were necessary to end ...more
Bas Kreuger
A bit repetative after a while, but certainly very interesting for historical professionals who work in museums or make exhibits. How to exhibit war? What effects can certain object have? How difficult can discussions be where actual particants in a conflict voice their opinion? And what value must those voices have?
All subjects treated in this book and a must read for directors or curators in war or war related museums.
This is so interesting, and intensely frustrating at the same time. Basically all the chapters are different historians discussing the Enola Gay exhibit controversy at the Smithsonian in the 90s. 16 year old me must have not been paying much attention, because I don't remember this at all, but apparently it was a really big story, with congressional hearings and everything. Long story short, Congress decided that the job of the Air and Space Museum is to promote patriotism and happy thoughts abo ...more
John Kaufmann
Possibly a 3.5 I read this some ten or twelve years ago (well before Goodreads), and I remember liking it. Nominally it is about the display of the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian's Nation Air and Space Museum to mark the 50th anniversary of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. But at a deeper level it is about the struggle over the meaning of the bomb, whether it should or should not have been dropped, whether it should be 'celebrated' or 'criticized.' Do we relate what was thought at the time, or do we ...more
Read this for a grad class.
I really struggled with picking a number of stars to give this one. This is a very very important book. However, it could be about half as long - since it's a compilation of essays, it gets quite repetitive after a while.
Anyway. The fact that this happened frustrates the hell out of me, and I will force the first chapter or two of this book on anyone who gives me half a chance.
I skimmed this in college when it was assigned for a seminar I took, and I thought the subject was interesting enough to save it for a more thorough read later. It's about 8 years later and it doesn't make for very good non-class reading. It also feels very dated since it was written before 9/11, and the commemoration of that event is a more prevalent discussion topic these days.
The essays in this book flow logically and are beautifully written. Put together Pre-9/11, the dangers of blinding jingoism and naive moralism seem like tame warnings now. These days, to question the heroic narrative of the US is to be un-American and these 8 historians make it clear just how stupid it is to support conservative historical amnesia. Highly recommended reading.
This book should be required reading for anyone in Museum Studies or interested in Public History. A look at the controversy surrounding the Smithsonian’s attempts to have an exhibit on the 50th anniversary of the WWII Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Raises many questions about museum’s obligations to the public and preserving history that cannot be easily answered.
James Erwin
This collection of essays on the 50th anniversary of the atomic bomb, and the fight to control the interpretation of its history, is excellent but uneven. Some contributors are thoughtful and even-handed while others descend to insulting rhetoric. On the balance, a vital case study for anyone interested in history as a profession and practice.
Mark Singer
Feb 09, 2011 Mark Singer rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Mark by: no one
A great collection of essays about the controversial 1994 Enola Gay exhibit at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. The Enola Gay was the American B-29 bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1945, and its front half was to be put on display.
Daniel Conner
For a person wanting a career in public history, it was very interesting reading the challenges faced by historians and in the field, trying to balance historic facts and the memories of those involved.
Very repetitive and argumentative between essays. And us historians sometimes wonder why people don't like us.
Repetitive. And redundant. Displays of Power addresses the same topic more thoroughly, and in fewer pages.
I didn't love it. I felt the narrative was really bogged down in an excess of detail.
Jun 17, 2007 stephanie marked it as to-read
rec: linenthal's essay first sparked my interest in historiography, prof. kaye.
Sep 03, 2007 Melissa marked it as to-read
Mariel & Kelly make this book sound cool and they are smart historian types.
Laine marked it as to-read
Apr 28, 2015
Moony Amari
Moony Amari is currently reading it
Apr 21, 2015
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History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past

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“you love this country so much you’re willing to die for it, maybe you do belong to a ‘special interest,’ but that special interest used to be called the people of the United States of America.” 0 likes
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