Bad History: Essays toward the Crisis (2008-2018), #1

Starting with the essay linked at the bottom of this post, I’m creating a decade of “collected essays”: sixteen things I’ve written, beginning in 2008 and ending in 2018, on various failures in American history, as that history has been presented to the non-specialist public (I’m a member of that group), by everybody from professional historians to political candidates to museums and newspapers and broadcasting and other cultural institutions. My essays, starting in ’08, seem to lead inevitably but unexpectedly to two massive cultural phenomena, for me interlinked: the Broadway success of “Hamilton: an American Musical” in 2015 and the election of Donald Trump in 2016.

Some of these essays were originally posted on this blog. Others were published elsewhere.

Despite where it all ended up heading, there’s no neat arc: the essays are linked by their general subject; they range from commentary on TV shows and politics to historiography of postwar U.S. history scholarship; they refer critically to figures from Sarah Palin to Gordon Wood, from Barack Obama to Ron Chernow. Some people who have been long forgotten will show up (Christine O’Donnell? wha?). And yet themes develop, as we move from the Obama years to the Trump years, through the trial by fire for founding history and its relation to modern politics that is the Hamilton musical.

OK, so here’s the entry point, from March of 2008, on candidate Obama’s fantastical constitutionalism in the “More Perfect Union” speech: Barack Obama on the U.S. Constitution.

Number two in this collection is here.

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