May 13, 2003

The Dangers of Modern History

The Dangers of Modern History Writing

From the Chronicle, this story about a new history book that's winning prizes and hullabaloo. The book deals with the "other slavery" in the US involving the Spanish and Native American clashes that occurred out West before and during English settlement. It sounds interesting, and I'll probably give it a read (the funny thing about getting degrees in English is that now I primarily read history books for pleasure...), but the quotes that jumped out at me from the article were these:

Some readers are almost certainly going to be offended by Mr. Brooks's attention to the ambient violence of the history he recounts. The Indians that he portrays aren't New Age icons -- peaceful, egalitarian, in touch with the deeper rhythms of the cosmos. The pre-Columbian slave system was by no means as horrific as the Middle Passage, but it was violent even so. ...

"That's where James is taking something of a risk," says Donald Lee Fixico, a professor of American Indian history at the University of Kansas. "It might be safer not to look at the brutality between the two races, but he's quite willing to go into that gray area."

Okay, so what I got from that was that a guy who did painstaking research and presents actual facts about brutality and history in a book is in danger of "offending people." Yeah, that damn reality. Offensive! I suppose I should be impressed that such risk-taking works are being published, but I'm mostly just disappointed that a seemingly straightforward work like this one is being called "risk-taking" in the first place.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at May 13, 2003 07:04 AM