Bad History: Essays toward the Crisis (2008-2018), #3

The premise for these posts is here. This is the third in the series: another longread, also originally published in Boston Review, at the end of that big year of ’08 (the trip will soon speed up, I promise).

This is “Constitutional Conventions,” on the abject failure of the National Constitution Center, which had recently opened. This was the most mainstream of mainstream history-tourism destinations, with a board staffed by professional historians and legal scholars, and man, talk about a toxic effect on public understanding of the nation’s origins. This kind of big institutional effort is one reason we don’t have a real civics. Ten years later, we can see the effects of that absence everywhere we look.

The essay also contains inchoate beginnings of the critique of the postwar U.S. history consensus that I mounted in the 2012 book Founding Finance (much of the historiography in the version linked above– references to Gordon Wood, Edmund Morgan, Jesse Lemisch — I ended up cutting from the version published in book form in Inventing American History, in ’09, by Boston Review and MIT Press).

(Next item is here.)

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