SO WHAT ABOUT HISTORY? by Edmund S. Morgan
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SO WHAT ABOUT HISTORY?

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KIRKUS REVIEW

What is it? What's in it for me? The text explains, the photos demonstrate, the child absorbs the nature of history before he's faced with learning facts. . . and if it doesn't work it won't be on account of internal deficiencies: this is an astute and artful presentation. Proceeding from simple to quite sophisticated ideas, Dr. Morgan (Yale) counters Henry Ford's ""History is bunk"" with ""History is junk"" (discarded pots to abandoned towns), shows that ""we turn some junk into new useful things,"" continue to use others in the same way. From the past we also get ideas and ways of doing things, the very letters by which we learn them being shaped by the needs of Roman stonecutters (strikingly illustrated). In the New World we have also used, in Surinam, the motifs of the Congo; in New England, the design of English houses; in our government, the model of the Roman Republic. Families to towns to nations, ""groups are the great keepers of ideas,"" most rules being taken for granted (viz. right-hand and left-hand side of the street driving). And so, graphically, the discussion reaches the reasons for change and, shortly, the substance of American history--things that happened ""because people wanted to make them."" Whether slavery, his prime example, ""ended because the majority of Americans wanted to end"" can be debated (but the general disregard of economic and social forces is excusable in a book for this age). His purpose, however, is not to write history but to link choice to change, and finally to ""How Much Change""--instructively, even inspiringly set forth in terms of the Bill of Rights. Among many excellences, especially noteworthy is the use of photos to convey the message: it gets across.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1969
Publisher: Atheneum