Who Owns History? Rethinking the Past in a Changing World by Eric Foner

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A thought-provoking new book from one of America's finest historians

"History," wrote James Baldwin, "does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do."

Rarely has Baldwin's insight been more forcefully confirmed than during the past few decades. History has become a matter of public controversy, as Americans clash over such things as museum presentations, the flying of the Confederate flag, or reparations for slavery. So whose history is being written? Who owns it?

In Who Owns History?, Eric Foner proposes his answer to these and other questions about the historian's relationship to the world of the past and future. He reconsiders his own earlier ideas and those of the pathbreaking Richard Hofstadter. He also examines international changes during the past two decades--globalization, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of apartheid in South Africa--and their effects on historical consciousness. He concludes with considerations of the enduring, but often misunderstood, legacies of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. This is a provocative, even controversial, study of the reasons we care about history--or should.


About Eric Foner

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Eric Foner is the pre-eminent historian of his generation. Foner is highly respected by historians of every stripe-whether they specialize in political history or social history. His books have won the top awards in the profession, and he has been president of both major history organizations-the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians. He has worked on every detail of Give Me Liberty!, which displays all of his trademark strengths as a scholar, teacher, and writer. A specialist on the Civil War/Reconstruction period, Foner regularly teaches the 19th century survey at Columbia University, where he is DeWitt Clinton Professor of History. His latest trade title, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, won numerous awards including the Lincoln Prize, Bancroft Award, and the Pulitzer Prize.
Published April 16, 2003 by Hill and Wang. 256 pages
Genres: History. Non-fiction

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In an address he gave last year as president of the American Historical Association, he exhorted his colleagues to examine American history in an international context: "In a global age, the forever-unfinished story of American freedom must become a conversation with the entire world."

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