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“The teaching of history is continuing to be transformed into indoctrination by illiberal, leftist propaganda,” writes historian Bruce Thornton in his new booklet Why History Matters from the David Horowitz Freedom Center. The result, he notes, is that “the abandonment of belief in objective historical truth makes possible a politicized history that legitimizes tyrannical power.” George Orwell dramatized this in his novel 1984, a fictional scenario that, Thornton warns, “has traveled a long way to becoming fact” in America today.
Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Fellow at the Freedom Center and professor of Classics and Humanities at California State University in Fresno. He is also the author of nine wide-ranging histories on classical culture and its influence on Western civilization, including The Wages of Appeasement and Democracy’s Dangers & Discontents.
Covering more ground in forty pages than some books do in several times that number, Why History Matters reaches back to the origins of historiography in Herodotus and Thucydides, and brings the reader forward to the current, dangerous trend of ideological history found in Howard Zinn’s ubiquitous, subversive work A People’s History of the United States and, more recently, The New York Times’ discredited but influential “1619 Project,” which falsely posits that America was founded “to ensure slavery would continue.” This sort of historiography “that villainizes our country,” Thornton argues, is a suicidal fashion that “insidiously erodes” our love of country, emboldening our enemies “to see us as weak and primed for a fall.”
Bruce Thornton’s Why History Matters is a must-read for understanding how modernity has eroded our grounding in “the tragic truth about human nature,” and why we need a common history that gives us a context for understanding ourselves. “Without that perspective,” he writes, “the past becomes a Cubist painting, everything flattened on the canvas of the present… and judged in terms of present ideologies and political aims and interests.”