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Henry Ford (1863–1947), founder of the Ford Motor Company, famously said, “History is bunk.” That may be sometimes true. Historians do make mistakes. This is why all histories must be read with a critical eye. Not all theories of history are equally valid. Some of them do not do what any good theory must do, namely, explain the evidence. Still, some theories are attractive because they offer a comprehensive explanation of the past (or the present) and they are relatively simple to grasp and they do not require a lot of work. E.g., One popular historical theory says that most things are the result of the dialectical struggle between classes. According to this theory most historical phenomena can be explained by the ongoing attempt by the upper classes to oppress, for their own benefit, the working classes. Frankly, given such a theory one need not pay a great deal of attention to the facts in any particular instance because, well, we already know how the story turns out. Under such a theory the only job left to the historian is to sort out who are the good guys (the oppressed) and the bad guys (the oppressors).
When Ford declared history to be bunk (and “more or less bunk”) he spoke for a lot of practical, hard-working, business-minded Americans who had little time or interest in thinking about the distant past. In some ways America represents a break from and/or flight from the past. Because we are a busy, prosperous people, because our public education system has adopted silly theories about what constitutes education, Americans and (it seems) particularly evangelicals are especially prone to theories to explain events past and present that can be learned in a two-hour film. The Da Vinci Code is a great example of this phenomenon. Most American...
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