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Sense of History: The Place of the Past in American Life
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Sense of History: The Place of the Past in American Life

3.39 of 5 stars 3.39  ·  rating details  ·  49 ratings  ·  7 reviews
As Americans enter the new century, their interest in the past has never been greater. In record numbers they visit museums and historic sites, attend commemorative ceremonies and festivals, watch historically based films, and reconstruct family genealogies. The question is, Why? What are Americans looking for when they engage with the past? And how is it different from wh ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 1st 2001 by University of Massachusetts Press (first published January 1st 2001)
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This book is a collection of essays, written by David Glassberg, that explore the different ways in which Americans interact with history. Historians should read this book to understand how and why people develop powerful memories of historical places and events, and how they develop a “sense of history”; a trait that Glassberg says “reflects the intersection of the intimate and the historical…so that public histories often forcefully, and surprisingly, hit home” (pg. 6). After the first chapter ...more
Thomas Isern
The most striking section of Glassberg's book is his treatment of place and placelessness in relation to history and identity. This bears rereading a dozen times. Overall, this book is the best single work for delineating the relationship, or sometimes the lack thereof, between academic history and public history.
This book of essays has lurked on my shelf for awhile and when I picked it up I struggled with it. I don't know if it was because this is not where I am with my life right now or simply because the essays never drew me in or engaged me. I'm thinking that it is a combination of the two.
While this book contains some interesting research, it lacks continuity. Each chapter, though written by the same author, seems to be dropped in from an article written elsewhere, and it's difficult to find any unifying ideas throughout, other than "Americans have a sense of history."
Several really interesting essays in here about sense of place, monuments and their histories, Ken Burns' Civil War documentary, and other topics. I particularly like the one about sense of place in New England towns, the Ken Burns one, and the one about the a WWI monument in Orange, MA.
It's an enjoyable read, but his argument gets lost in the middle of the chapters. Interesting perspective though about how Americans perceive the history around them and how they deem what elements of their environment are important.
Discusses Public History in terms of place and discusses local situations in which public memory and history converge
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