The summaries are written by students themselves, which gives you the best possible insight into what is important to study about this book. The riots began in 1965 in the Watts district of Los Angeles, where young working-class blacks were protesting against the poverty and squalor in which they lived, but soon spread across the whole nation.
But one could equally cite the precedent of the First World War, one of whose causes was the relentless escalation in armaments from the 1890s onwards. Historical biography is said to feature prominently in the leisure reading of British politicians. Which precedent is valid? Or to take a more distant example: the events of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, which saw the dissolution of the Zulu kingdom and the destruction of an entire British regiment, were tragic enough; but a whole other dimension of irony and pathos is revealed when we consider the betrayals, the mutual misunderstandings and the culture conflict that set the two sides on a collision course.33 This represents the other side of historicism. But in so far as the Victorians kept their distance from their children and meted out harsh punishments to them, this was a reaction against the past, rather than the climax of a long tradition. And there will always, one hopes, be historians like Cobb with special gifts in the re-creation of the past. 84–7. He expelled Uganda’s entire Asian population and was finally overthrown by a military invasion by neighbouring Tanzania in 1979.
Also known as the Protestant work ethic. Galbraith, ‘the study of history is a personal matter, in which the activity is generally more valuable than the result’. And if history does not repeat itself, what sort of a guide can it provide for the present? In its modern form, ‘race’ was originally developed as a category that justified the growing ascendancy of the West over other peoples. At the other extreme is the view that nothing can be learned from history: not that history is beyond our reach, but that it offers no guidance. His principal aim is to make the dead live. Historians are no happier to have their findings dismissed as a complete irrelevance. Get this from a library! 14 See, for example, Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May, Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision-Makers, Free Press, 1986; Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Unwin Hyman, 1988. They link it to economic structures, patterns of consumption and international relations – and increasingly to codes of masculinity and constructions of racial difference as well. In 1990 President Saddam Hussain of Iraq invaded and annexed the small oil-rich kingdom of Kuwait. Of course not all the past is exotic. Richard Cobb (1917–96) was a colourful British authority on the history of France. Both Elton and Galbraith had in mind the excesses of propaganda to which relevant history had led under the regimes of Hitler and Stalin (Elton was a refugee from Nazi Germany): Nazi and Soviet historians were state employees, expected to repeat crude party dogma about the past.
pages 27 For an introductory selection, see P. Rabinow (ed. (1961): Scientists, social scientists, and historians are all engaged in different branches of the same study: the study of man and his environment, of the effects of man on his environment and of his environment on man. The equation of modernity with a rejection of the past was first put into effect during the French Revolution of 1789–93. E.J. Commenting on the gradual retreat from big, contentious topics in university teaching, David Cannadine writes: The belief that history provides an education, that it helps us understand ourselves in time, or even that it explains something of how the present world came into being, has all but vanished.34, It is hard not to detect a fundamental conservatism in these attitudes: if history is defined to exclude anything that smacks of ‘relevance’, it is less likely to call into question the dominant mythologies of today or suggest radical alternatives to current institutions. He proved a brutal dictator and massacred large numbers of his own people. 24–5. 7 Pat Thane, Old Age in English History: Past Experiences, Present Issues, Oxford University Press, 2000. The way in which an earlier generation of historians wrote about Western global expansion strongly implied that the ‘native’ peoples at the receiving end were inferior both in their indigenous culture and in their capacity to assimilate Western techniques; and these negative stereotypes served in turn to sustain a flattering self-image of the British – or French or German – ‘race’. In cases such as these the gulf between present and past is, as it were, compressed into a single life-span. The act only passed through the Scottish Parliament with the help of wholesale bribery. It makes a difference now to know that a fully engaged fatherhood today is not some Utopian fantasy but a pattern that has existed within English culture in the comparatively recent past.
21 Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707–1837, Yale University Press, 1992; Raphael Samuel, Theatres of Memory, vol.