THE FUTURE OF THE PAST: Historical Writings by C. Vann Woodward

THE FUTURE OF THE PAST: Historical Writings

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A collection of 22 perceptive and stylish essays, addresses, and book reviews written over the past two decades by perhaps America's leading historian. Woodward ranges here from a graceful reminiscence of the Southern Renaissance--he was a friend of many of its leading lights, including Robert Penn Warren--to a splendidly thought-out analysis of the place of Black Studies in American history curricula. He also points out the myths that have grown up around such sacrosanct topics as the Underground Railroad and the Abolitionist Movement. But no matter how controversial his findings, they are always expressed in a voice that is gentlemanly and, quite frequently, more than a little amusing, as when he refers to the 1960s ""vogue of combining Cavalier hairstyles with Roundhead earnestness."" In addition to their literary polish, Woodward's writings are always notable for their reasonableness, their depth of research, and the generosity with which opposing views are treated. Not that he is a Pollyanna, though: Woodward can criticize as well as compliment. Discussing literary style, for example, he refers to Dwight Lowell Dumond (Antislavery: The Crusade for Freedom in America, 1961) as ""a modern primitive, a Henri Rousseau of historiography."" Taking on some of his colleagues, he deplores historians ""who resist the thought that history might conceivably entertain as well as instruct."" Readers will find nothing to deplore in Woodward's latest--it entertains and instructs in equal measure.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press