What Is History For?

Robert Gildea


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Bristol University Press
26 March 2024
ISBN: 9781529230512
182 pages

From the publisher

“History”, suggests Robert Gildea, “is a battlefield.” Questions of power, rights, identity and nationhood always have an ancient and modern historical dimension and countries still go to war over their interpretation of history. Yet accounts of history are just as prone to fabrication as fake news, so how can we tell good history from bad? How can history be critical, learning from the past and righting wrongs, rather than divisive, such as riding roughshod over the rights of others?

In this passionately argued book, Gildea suggests that the more people who really understand what good history entails, the more likely history is to triumph over myth. He sees positive signs in public history, citizen historians and community projects, among other developments. And he debunks claims that ‘you cannot rewrite history’, arguing that good history that’s attuned to its times must be rewritten time and again.