Tuesday, December 28, 2021


Historians have not been notably successful in predicting the future. They are not even, a wit has said, very good at predicting the past.

- Gertrude Himmelfarb


Dan in Philly said...

Ha! I'm not a historian myself but I am a fan of history. I may have mentioned this on this website before, but one thing I enjoy is reading histories of the same subject written in different time. One of my favorite examples of this is historians treatment of US grant, both as general and president. For a good long while, he was presented as a terrible president and a ham fisted general. Then he was presented as a competent general but an abject failure as a president. Then he was presented as a brilliant general and a president who was too honest and too naive. Now, he is presented as a brilliant general and his reputation as a president has been rehabilitated, especially given his outstanding civil rights record, which was unequaled in the subsequent hundred years of presidencies.

The point is, what we knew about him didn't change very much from 1920 to 2020, however the people covering him changed their worldviews. If you didn't like who US grant was, it spoke just as much about you as it did about him. I know of no other US president to have undergone such a radical shift to perception in my lifetime.

Michael Wade said...


That's an outstanding example!

Excellent points.