Thursday, November 17, 2005

David, Jonathan, Churchill, and Roosevelt

I've been taking "Historical Methods and Research" this semester. The whole class basically centers around this big paper we each have to write. Each week, we review two students' rough drafts. Each of us gives a formal review of two other students' papers. Doing my paper is what has kept me from writing anything fresh for a while. I'm done with my paper now, so not only can I write a few fresh things, but I can also engage in my bow-making obsession.

Today, we reviewed a guy who wrote his paper on how Winston Churchill agressively courted the friendship of Franklin Roosevelt. There was something in his paper that reminded me of the friendship between David and Jonathan. There's a lot of people who think the relationship between David and Jonathan was homosexual. One proof text that always comes up is when David said to Jonathan, "Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women."

In the paper we read today, the guy quoted Churchill who said, "No lover ever studied every whim of his mistress as I did those of President Roosevelt." I wonder if, 3000 years from now, some people will begin to argue that the relationship between Churchill and Roosevelt was also homosexual.


At 11/17/2005 3:26 PM , Blogger Jeff said...

Sam, that class sounds pretty interesting. I wonder if you would have any insights in to something I've been pondering lately (due to my blog entries on educational malfeasance). Are you aware of any recent historical revisions being taught today's public school kids that are illicit (as opposed to revisions that serve to correct the history).

The new political correctness going around has resulted in a revision to history whereby Columbus is now a bad guy for instance (as well as Jefferson sleeping with slaves..). All of this is done in a new spirit of anti-Americanism.
So my question is how many of these historical revisions are actually incorrect twisting of true history?
Sorry if this is an improper coopting of your blog.

At 11/17/2005 8:45 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Jeff, I don't read too many grade school text books, so I couldn't tell you for sure, but it doesn't surprise me.

At 11/18/2005 12:00 AM , Blogger Steve said...

Jeff - Columbus WAS a bad guy.

Honestly, re-evaluating how we view the past is a very important part of history. For a long time the Byznatine Empire was defined as the "declining Roman Empire" until Professor Mavroudi on my campus said wait a minute, the Byzantines last 1100 years, thats some decline!

A lot of history is written by the "winners" and a lot of history is written to trick future generations into thinking certain things happened that didn't. You should not read Caesar's "Conquest of Gaul" if you think you'll ACTUALLY be getting a good picture of what he did there, he's manipulating history for his legacy.

Its not to say older interpretations of history are wrong, but many times they reveal ancient biases or lack the evidence we have now. In the case of Jefferson, DNA tests proved he was the father of a line of slaves. If that makes him look bad, so be it. If logic proves anything, its that you cant escape the truth.

At 11/18/2005 1:04 PM , Blogger Jeff said...

Steve, that's all very good. I made a point to allow for correct revisionism. My question is, have there been incorrect revisions? I suspect there have.
The reason, which you give yourself, is that the winners write history (well sort of, no one in the modern world is going to get to rewrite the outcome of WWII...too many eyewitnesses). Well, society is currently dominated by post-moderns. These new 'winners' are bound to want to rewrite history to better fit their agenda.
I'm just looking for examples of that.

Revising history = neutral
Correctly revising history = great!
falsely revising history = despicable.

At 11/18/2005 2:27 PM , Blogger daleliop said...

How about people claiming Charles Darwin recanted the theory of evolution on his deathbed?

At 11/19/2005 5:46 PM , Blogger Steve said...

Jeff - I agree that this occurs. For example, in Middle Eastern Studies there's this attempt to talk about American foreign policy in the Middle East as being "Orientalist" after Dr. Edward Said made the argument (essentially, he's saying its racism and ignorance of the west that has led to colonization).

Now, I believe there is PLENTY of racism and ignorance, but that doesn't prove its the underlying reason for an invasion and to generalize history like that is a huge mistake, and yet these professors go back and look at the British occupation and point to the racism of the occupiers as proof of their thesis.

I said, racist or not, they are not going to engage in colonization if its against their interests militarily, economically, and politically. They colonized the Middle East for two main reasons, to prevent Russian expansion during the 19th century to a warm water port, and then to protect oil interests in the early 20th century.

Thats not racism, thats interests. If the people were racists too, that makes for good narrative but not causality.

At 11/20/2005 12:26 AM , Blogger Vman said...

This is exactly like the Abraham Lincoln is gay argument.

At 11/20/2005 12:49 AM , Blogger Steve said...

lol. well i think we need to remember that while a rejection of older interpretations of history is not necessarily good, an undue reverence for the traditional is not good either.

People need to be willing to dust off history every now and then with some fresh perspectives.

Its true that we may read into history what we wish to find, but if its true of our society that we warp history to our own needs, isn't it equally true that our ancestors did the same thing? Therefore, is there older opinion necessarily superior to our modern ones?

At 11/21/2005 9:34 AM , Blogger Jeff said...

Steve, an older bending of historical truth isn't better than today's interpretation....yet, today we only have the various written histories to work from and being more removed from the occurrences (and eyewitnesses) means that we are less likely to find truth now, than if we were to simply rely on the concensus of the older historians. Of course a lot does depend on the character of these older historians. And I would tend to feel better trusting a historian coming from the enlightenment period, or the rational period, or any other period of history than I would a postmodern one.

Exceptions to this are when we have access to physical evidence (ie. forensic analysis of George Washington's remains). This can help shed new light on things that were unknowable when the history was first written.

At 11/21/2005 6:59 PM , Blogger Steve said...

Jeff, you would REALLY prefer a historian from the 1700s to one from the 21st century? You would, for example, prefer a history of slavery written by a slaveholder to one written today?

At 11/22/2005 9:56 AM , Blogger Jeff said...

You've got a good point on that. Perhaps history written by someone neutral or antagonistic to slavery from that period.


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