Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Howard Zinn on Making History


Sorry people, I am really busy just now but I thought I would just link to this interview with the legendary historian Howard Zinn, author of among other things A People's History of the United States, in this month's Socialist Review. Here is an extract:

#Q: Your book A People's History of the United States is proudly partisan. Why do you think it is so important for history to be openly partisan?

A: First you use the phrase "openly partisan". It's a good point. All history is partisan except that most of it is not open. Histories that pretend to be objective and neutral, and pretend not to be taking sides, are of course taking sides, because they are not raising any consciousness about society. It's flat history which doesn't provoke anyone into action and which therefore reinforces the status quo.

That passive, pretentious scholarship which is partisan without saying so is what I'm trying to overcome. I believe the historian is a citizen, a human being, before he is a historian. To me being a historian is just a means to an end.

History, by its nature, is always a selection out of the past of an enormous amount of data. What you select out of that data to present in a book or a lecture suggests what your point of view is.

The selection is inevitably partisan. You select things that are unprovocative and harmless or the facts of history that will really provoke thinking and action.'

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