inconvenient history

Tom Woods, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, has written another volume of corrective American history. I look forward to reading it. Sounds like he was able to go into some things in greater depth.

He writes about it at LRC.

What I find interesting about Woods’s approach is that he is not doing revision, technically speaking.

Revisionism is reinvestigation of the Establishment’s pro-state (and usually pro-war) narrative.

What Woods does, it seems to me, is address the rift between that which is generally accepted by history scholars and that which is taught, repeated, and reinforced by schools, the mainstream media, and popular culture more generally.

(See, for example, this recent bit of ahistorical propaganda from Newsweek: “China today resembles nothing so much as the United States a century ago, when robber barons, gangsterism and raw capitalism held sway. Now as then, powerful vested interests are profiting from murky regulations, shoddy enforcement, rampant corruption and a lack of consumer awareness.”)

Now some of Woods’s positions are still at odds with Establishment historians, such as his Austrian School approach to the Great Depression. This is because any analysis of economic history will require more than just facts; it will require theory to interpret the cause and effect behind those facts. But most of what he focuses on are generally accepted facts among historians that are extremely inconvenient to the historical narrative most of us have been taught.

One of the absurd criticisms of his Politically Incorrect Guide was the claim that he was pretending controversy where there wasn’t any. To paraphrase: What professional historian would disagree that the Civil War was caused, in part, by a complex combinations of factors, including economic concerns other than the question of slavery?!

Well, the answer is probably that no respectable historian would deny a complex array of factors behind any big event in history. But that argument is a straw man. Woods wasn’t saying that his claims would be considered controversial among historians; he was saying that they would be considered controversial among almost everyone else, and he was clearly correct, as proven by all the fallout from both the old Left Establishment and the neocons. The history we all think we know is not the history that historians know, and it’s that very discrepancy that Woods addresses in his books.


Here’s Tom’s reaction to this post:

By and large I think that’s what I’m doing, though while reading it I think you’ll find that in some cases I’m doing both the things you describe here. The Establishment’s pro-state narrative is extremely shaken, I think, by the time the book ends.

Now I’m even more anxious to receive my copy of the book.


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