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The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life
Some people make photo albums, collect antiques, or visit historic battlefields. Others keep diaries, plan annual family gatherings, or stitch together patchwork quilts in a tradition learned from grandparents. Each of us has ways of communing with the past, and our reasons for doing so are as varied as our memories. In a sweeping survey, Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen as ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 30th 2000 by Columbia University Press
(first published January 1st 1998)
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This book ended up depressing me, sad to say. The authors did a study of how Americans relate to the past, using a phone survey. This was back in the early 90s, when everyone was talking about how people in this country don't know their own history, and our students aren't learning anything, and crisis crisis. So this phone survey was supposed to show that people were actually very connected with the past after all. But what it actually seems to show is that people are fine with history as long ...more
Might be inching towards a 4.5, hard to say. Either way, while this book is certainly dated in some ways, ahem "CD-ROMS and the World Wide Web," it is also unfortunately relevant. Many of the insights found in their study show that people do connect with the past, just not in the way professional historians make sense of the past. The conclusion is that historians, as the professionals, need to be aware of how people engage the past and help bridge the gap between public and professional history ...more
Two historians put together a massive research project to learn how everyday Americans relate to the past. This book presents the results of that study. It's not a dry recitation of facts. they personalize the findings quite well. I don't completely agree with the premise and some of the methodology, but it's very interesting to see how Americans learn about history and who they trust to tell them the straight facts. The study also compares differences between ethnic groups. As expected, America ...more
This book revolves around a massive survey given to Americans about how they think about and interact with history and historical sources. It’s a counter to the typical jeremiad that Americans don’t care about history. Instead it shows that they very much do care, but they interact with it and think about it in ways that are not necessarily the same as (or encouraged by) historians. The caveat to keep in mind here is that its conclusions are limited: the survey was done in the mid-1990s, and it ...more
Overall, this book is intriguing. It details the results of a national survey that asked people how they use the past and history. The results are interesting! Its nice to know that people are more involved with history (or as they view it, the past) than what some professionals may lead us to believe. However, I have a lot of issues with some of the language the authors used as well as some of their methods. Why did they choose one Native American reservation when trying to understand how Nativ ...more
Wow. This book gave very good insight into how Americans viewed the concept of "History" and the Past. I was not surprised to learn as a genealogist that most Americans valued the beliefs and oral history of family members over books, TV, and "experts," especially around National events. They believed family members who had "been there" and "seen firsthand" what happened during these events were the most credible sources. This is a recurring theme in the genealogy world.
A very surprising theme, ...more
A very surprising theme, ...more
Luke warm on this one. I like the conclusion that the general public feels museums are one of the most reliable sources of history. However, overall the book left me feeling a bit nauseous from its less-than-methodical telephone survey (BTW would you spend 30+ minutes on the phone with a stranger discussing your views on the past?) to its generous idea that anyone collecting coins or scrapbooking, for example, are engaged in history. An interesting piece of work but did not live up to my expecta ...more
I haven't yet rated this book because I need to finish reading it. For those who are genealogy enthusiasts, or those interested in learning about their ancestors, I recomend this book that happens to be one of my school text books. There are a group of investigators who tour the country to find out what people in all walks of life understand about history and it is interesting to read the responses.
Starting to get out of date, although I fully understand the challenge of trying to update it with another nationwide survey! Even if it's getting dated, it's fascinating for a public historian and helps approach the topic from the public's perspective with actual facts, not just the way we imagine the public to be. A vital contribution to the field.
Aug 05, 2007 Donnie rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People who like History, historical memory, and poetry
This is an interesting book about how Americans view the past. I think its arguments have some merit, but I think the methodology is very questionable and therefore I was forced to remain skeptical through the entire work.