Eric Foner: “The best antidote to bad history is good history”Historians in the News
tags: Eric Foner
Related Link An interview with Eric Foner in The Nation
Journalist and author John Green interviews U.S. historian Eric Foner, for Morning Star. Foner is Professor of History at Columbia University.
JG: Would you be happy to be described as a “Marxist historian” or is there a more accurate term for historians like you, Howard Zinn and others?
EF: I tend to eschew labels. Marx is believed to have said: “I am not a Marxist.” In other words: “I don’t want to be assigned to a single school of interpretation.”
But no-one can understand history who does not have at least some familiarity with the writings of Marx.
I have been powerfully influenced by Marxist insights, especially those of the last generation of British Marxist scholars such as Eric Hobsbawm, E.P. Thompson and others.
But I have also been influenced by black radical scholars like WEB Du Bois, who himself was influenced by Marxism and also by other radical traditions and by feminist scholars.
JG: You’ve argued that the past needs to be “usable.” What exactly do you understand by that term?
EF: The idea of a “usable” past is often misunderstood. It certainly does not mean distorting history for political ends, nor ignoring less than appealing features of past movements with which one is sympathetic.
I do believe that for those trying to change society today, an understanding of where our current situation comes from is essential and knowledge of past social movements very desirable.
A usable past is a body of historical knowledge that inspires people to try to make this a better world and that cuts through much of the historical mythology with which we are surrounded. ...
comments powered by Disqus
- Did Squanto meet Pocahontas in London?
- Thanksgiving: Early Colonists Ate Turkey... But Also Horses, Rats And Snakes, Archaeologists Say
- Sources: McMaster Mocked Trump’s Intelligence at a Private Dinner
- The JFK assassination files lead back to Seattle
- Princeton investigates its connection to slavery at a two-day symposium
- OAH historians say events of the past year show they were right to emphasize freedom as the theme of the 2019 annual convention
- Why being a historian is about so much more than producing displays for museums
- Historian Says Textbooks Have Shaped Our Attitudes On Race
- Heather Ann Thompson says what went on at Attica is worse than we thought
- Princeton’s Jan T. Gross warns that Poland’s showing signs of turning decisively in a fascist direction