Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Wilentz on Waugh on Grant
One of my favorite presidents has long been Ulysses S. Grant. My admiration for him, however, has rarely been shared by other historians. That, however, is beginning to change. Sean Wilentz has a nice review in the latest New Republic of a new book by Joan Waugh titled U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth that takes a more complimentary view of the man, in both his aspects as military commander and as president, than is usual. What recommends Wilentz' review is the fact that he briefly sketches the way in which successive generations of historians have shaped and reshaped the image of Grant to suit their own purposes. Read it and learn just how very subjective and present-minded is the product of academic historians, and quit complaining about "revisionism". It is inherent in the very nature of the historical enterprise. Objective authority is a chimera.