13. History Wars moderated by Jim Williams




What is the role of history in society? Are historians to be cheerleaders for their nation, emphasizing nationalism, heroism and the positive? Should historians follow the evidence, no matter where it leads? Should national governments have control over the history that is published and taught? These are questions that have affected the study of history since World War II. Today, in virtually all nations, there is an ongoing debate regarding what should constitute the country’s history.

This course will examine how historical study has changed in America from the nineteenth century to today. We also will focus on several case studies that illustrate the “wars” that have been fought over history and its interpretation in many nations. Some of these will include: (1) the controversy over the Hiroshima exhibit at the Smithsonian in the 1990s, (2) the difficulty in dealing with the subject of collaboration with the Nazis during World War II in postwar France, (3) the changing impact of motion pictures and historical research on our perceptions about the history of the American West, (4) why the causes of the American Civil War are still debated, and (5) debates over the Rape of Nanking (1937) in China, Japan and the United States. The course format will include lecture and discussion. Ample time will be provided for questions and comments. Several readings will be distributed.

3 sessions           9:00-11:00          Thursdays, Feb 21-Mar 7