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Revisionism Revisited Redux


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#1 DCapps

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Posted 19 December 2019 - 22:06

Dr. James "Jim" Horton served as a member of the George Washington University faculty from 1977 until his death in 2017. I used several of his book in some of my research, such as, Black Bostonians: Family Life and Community Struggle in the Antebellum North (Holmes and Meier Publishers, New York, 1979, Second edition, 1999) and Free People of Color: Interior Issues in African American Community (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993).

 

Today, I was reminded by James Grossman, the executive director of the American Historical Association, of something that Horton said about revisionism. Grossman used Horton's quotation regarding "revisionism" as a means to initiate a discussion regarding the importance of the words that we choose to use as historians.

 

As Grossman notes, it is "those revisionist historians" who, in the eyes of many, seem to "invent" facts and "change" narratives to fit ideological or political agendas. One encounters this sort of thing here as well, in some cases. Indeed, one might even suggest that many times those interested in "auto racing history" seem to have issues -- quite serious at times -- with the concept of revisionism. (Goodness gracious, that this sort of thing would happen here, of course...)

 

At any rate, Grossman offers a quote from Horton that rang a huge bell because although I knew the quotation, I had forgotten who made it: "Revisionism happens because new evidence is available and new questions are asked. Would you go to a heart surgeon who wasn't reading revisionist medicine?"

 

It is not always "new evidence" that prompts us to begin to rethink and revise how we interpret the past, but "new eyes" looking at the past and asking questions that may lead to other interpretations.

 

(TNF/20)



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#2 Stephen W

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Posted 20 December 2019 - 08:00

Whilst involved in writing several chapters of a book I would pass each completed chapter to a friend who wasn't directly involved with the project. This was to get a fresh pair of eyes to go over the content and let me know if I was being reasonable with my comments plus correcting any grammatical errors. He did spot several "spellcheck' errors that had slipped in.



#3 RogerFrench

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Posted 20 December 2019 - 16:08

Mr. Capps, that definition of revisionism is fine, as long as the listener or reader understands the intention of the speaker or writer.
However, so often it is used to mean a restatement of history for some other purpose than finding the truth that it has become one of those words where you have to ask the context, so it's a bit of an unsafe word.
At least we know what you mean, though!

#4 DCapps

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Posted 21 December 2019 - 05:12

Mr. Capps, that definition of revisionism is fine, as long as the listener or reader understands the intention of the speaker or writer.
However, so often it is used to mean a restatement of history for some other purpose than finding the truth that it has become one of those words where you have to ask the context, so it's a bit of an unsafe word.
At least we know what you mean, though!

But, that is perhaps the point, isn't it? Why do we let fabulists use our terms of reference and then get away with it?



#5 Jim Thurman

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Posted 23 December 2019 - 00:20

Don, aside from a few moments, I haven't noticed that being much of a problem here. Unlike what seems to be every thread in Racing Comments and even some on the Nostalgia Forum degenerating into someone shouting and pointing: "America!" along with a general slagging off of all things America and American.

  

If you posted that over at that other forum, you'd get quite a different response. There, the term "revisionism" triggers combativeness, solely because it means a change to what they've long-held as true, unassailable fact. It is taken personally, as an insult and is a politically charged word, thanks to their fearless leaders (oh, how I wish there was a way to type a letter backwards there).

 

Now, if you were to present facts here that changed British perception of history, well, all bets are off    ;)


Edited by Jim Thurman, 23 December 2019 - 06:31.


#6 Vitesse2

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Posted 23 December 2019 - 10:19

Jim - while I understand the thrust of your argument, I'm not sure you should be shaking your stick purely at the British.  ;) Bear in mind that the world's press knew little or nothing of American racing outside the Indy 500 - although they might also have heard of Pike's Peak.

 

It's certainly true that the work of some writers is taken as gospel, but those of us who take the trouble to go back to original sources and re-interpret them do challenge their findings and conclusions. Those conclusions may very well be coloured by their own feelings, interests and attitudes - and also the paucity of sources available to them. My own researches into the 1930s and 1940s have shown me that the British writers considered to be the best sources tended to rely almost completely on material published in the UK - although some things can be traced to (mainly) French publications, usually l'Auto. The German, Italian and Swiss press can often provide a different perspective - and even the French and Italian daily papers are an excellent source. But these were unlikely to have been easily available pre-internet - even if the writers could actually read them ("If foreigners don't understand English - shout louder!")



#7 Jim Thurman

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Posted 24 December 2019 - 21:11

In the context of the users of this forum, yes, I should mainly be shaking my stick at the British  :) While there clearly are some European based agits here (or should that be agents ;) ) that slur or slag all things American on the forum at any and every opportunity (or failing that, create them), the loudest and most consistent are overwhelmingly British. Sorry, but it's the truth. Some, I feel, are attempting to be humorously droll a la their apparent idol, one J. Clarkson, but they do so with only half his wit (at least they used to, it's much more mean-spirited now, perhaps reflecting the same politicization that is only pointed out as being an ill of America). It's also disappointing that some seem to view him as a role model instead of a buffoonish TV character, but I digress... 

 

So, in regards to the charged term "revisionism", I do feel presenting an "update" of British history to the same crowd would elicit rather similar reactions as the cries of "revisionism" (and worse) from the forum where some have difficulty recognizing anything West of the Wabash  :D  I'll go so far as to say that presenting American things as different than what that group here perceives creates far worse cries than "revisionism" (I know this first hand   :lol: )

 

We're not talking the professionals here, though you raise great points about them. Nor are we talking about those of us who go back through the original sources. After all, we're the problem to the folks with a certain mindset, the one that Don refers to, no matter where they reside  :)