The Future of History

Anne Applebaum's review of Nichoson Baker's book about World War II offers some good food for thought about the state of historical "research" in today's world and where we seem to be headed. Here is just one snippet. She compares Baker's book to The Da Vinci Code, saying they are both evidence of “the contemporary cult of the non-expert, or rather the anti-expert: the bloggers who assume that the ‘mainstream media’ is always wrong, the Wikipedia readers who think that a compilation of random anecdotes is always preferable to a learned study, and of course the college students who nowadays prefer to get their news in emails from friends because it is too bothersome to read a newspaper.” <a href=""> Here's the link</a>.


The last thing we need is one of the members of the editorial board of the Washington Post complaining about how others are frequently wrong about things.

It is not too bothersome to read a newspaper; it is too stultifying. And news outlet web sites are worse, each page being little more than wallpaper for advertising.

There is nothing that cannot be found offensive by someone, somewhere.

Kind of a harsh and inaccurate opinion of Wikipedia, isn't it?

So the main beef Applebaum has is that Baker leads you to think for yourself rather then outright stating what he wants you to think, and she's unhappy with her own conclusions? The world is coming to an end; authors might actually allow readers to think for themselves! Scholars (those officially deemed scholars by Applebaum, I assume), present history as it really happened, with no bias! Experts and cranks are mutually exclusive! All scholars agree with each other! There is no ambiguity in official history! Scholars must interpret facts for the public, who are too dim to come to the "correct" conclusions! Art has no place in informing public discourse!

I personally see no problem with scholarly and non-expert works standing side by side in our current society, especially because I doubt this book will ever be more than a source of entertainment (scholarly research will never reference it, and who cares if non-scholars take it as gospel if their opinions matter so little anyway?).

Applebaum seems to be of the cult who believe that everything is going to pot now that average Joe can be heard, which sadly indicates she has little historical perspective, despite her expertise. I personally don't see the harm.

*I have not read Bakers's book, so am not defending it, but rather criticizing Applebaum's statements;*

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