The topic of discussion today is a reminder that there is currently a war on history and an effort to change or destroy the history of our nation and the world. This war has taken place over numerous years, but most people do not even recognize that there is a war on history.
Waller R. Newell is one person who does recognize this war. In his essay “Resisting the War on History,” Newell explains about this war on history and gives some counsel on how to fight it. He begins his essay by asking: “What do the following have in common? (1) The demand on campuses that history, philosophy and literature deemed offensive (including Greek mythology and Shakespeare) must be assigned a `trigger warning’ so that students will feel `safe.’ (2) The demand that all traces of the American South be removed from public life, including monuments to Civil War generals. (3) The demand that America open its borders to Syrian refugees and to all of the world’s disadvantaged.
“These demands are all premised on the assumption that human beings are isolated monads without any connection to history, tradition, or precedent, and can be interchanged with identical monads in all countries and cultures without any serious acclimatization or difficulties. Just as a world of `open borders’ can be achieved without difficult, so can absolute equality of condition among these equal integers, virtually overnight. Any failure to do so immediately, and any record of having failed to do so immediately in the past, must be condemned unconditionally, and all historical traces of it stigmatized and removed. Progressive politics, these people believe, requires a war on history, especially America’s history.”
Newell’s introduction to his essay plainly shows that there is a war on history, and the effects of this war can be seen in our society. It also shows a lack of common sense in our nation. How can “history, philosophy and literature deemed offensive” or a monument to a Civil War general make anyone feel unsafe? Why are people so willing to open our borders to “Syrian refugees and to all of the world’s disadvantaged” without taking into consideration their history and culture?
Newell suggests that a change needs to be made in the university curriculum in order to “resist the war on history and its barren understanding of the American character.” He also suggests that this change needs to “be initiated largely from outside the academy (though the effort should include academics), for nothing less than an alternative curriculum for a historical education in political life is needed to counter-act the universities’ neglect.”
The author suggests that “One place to start would be for students to read what the American Founders read in college, traditional political historians like Polybius, Cicero, and Sallust. At a minimum, students should read the great classics of Cold War history (it might cure tem of what they think is appealing about socialism). And let us surely not forget the canonical literary figures who brilliantly illustrate the perennial dilemmas of war, peace, and statesmanship, including Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Flaubert, and Turgenev. The same goes for a grounding in comparative religion and in music.”
Newell believes that “history is the key” and listed “one man’s Top 15 List of the Next Best Books, what every student should read at a minimum to become a historically literate citizen….” Here are the 15 books that Newell thinks every student should read. How many of these books have you read? I have not read any of them, but I am going to start at the top of the list and work my way down the list. I do not expect to complete the list soon, but I encourage you to join me in studying history.
- H.D.F. Kitto, The Greeks. An overview of the civilization that formed the West.
- Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution. How the Roman Republic became a world monarchy in disguise.
- Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. An Enlightenment historian surveys the career of the greatest state yet known to mankind.
- Lord Bryce, The Holy Roman Empire. The emergence of medieval Europe on the ruins of the Roman empire and the centuries-long struggle between Church and State.
- R. H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism. How the modern age was born of a unique synthesis of Renaissance and Reformation individualism.
- Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America. Why America’s only deep tradition is individualism.
- Lord Charnwood, Abraham Lincoln. A masterful political and psychological portrait of America’s greatest president.
- Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation. Advocated Europe’s retreat from laissez-faire individualism and the restoration of an organic view of society, mirrored in Social Democracy and paternalist Conservatism.
- Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August. A grab-you-by-the-lapels account of how Europe, at the apex of its culture and prosperity, plunged into the horrors of World War One.
- Jose Ortega y Gassett, The Revolt of the Masses. Fascism as the lust of the masses to smash the high civilizational standards of 19th century Europe.
- Winston Churchill, Great Contemporaries. Matchless short portraits of the most impressive figures of the era, including pre-war Hitler.
- Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow. Indispensable for revealing the crime of Soviet genocide, on a par with the Holocaust.
- Lucy Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews. Among the first to establish that the Holocaust was Hitler’s central and over-riding policy guiding World War II.
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago. The conclusion to Volume Two “The Soul and Barbed Wire” says it all.
- Bernard Lewis, The Crisis of Islam. How a great civilization declined into a seedbed for Jihadist fundamentalism.