Who Owns History?

Who Owns History?

Rethinking the Past in a Changing World

By Eric Foner

Hill and Wang, Hardcover, 9780809097043, 256pp.

Publication Date: April 1, 2002


A thought-provoking new book from one of America's finest historians

"History," wrote James Baldwin, "does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do."

Rarely has Baldwin's insight been more forcefully confirmed than during the past few decades. History has become a matter of public controversy, as Americans clash over such things as museum presentations, the flying of the Confederate flag, or reparations for slavery. So whose history is being written? Who owns it?

In Who Owns History?, Eric Foner proposes his answer to these and other questions about the historian's relationship to the world of the past and future. He reconsiders his own earlier ideas and those of the pathbreaking Richard Hofstadter. He also examines international changes during the past two decades--globalization, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of apartheid in South Africa--and their effects on historical consciousness. He concludes with considerations of the enduring, but often misunderstood, legacies of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. This is a provocative, even controversial, study of the reasons we care about history--or should.

About the Author

Eric Foner is DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University. He is the author of many highly acclaimed works in American history, notably The Story of American Freedom and Reconstruction. He lives in New York City.

Praise For Who Owns History?

"Who Owns History? offers engaging essays that address significant issues in lucid prose accessible to the general reader as well as students and scholars. Above all, the book carries and conveys what I call 'moral weight,' which is one of Eric Foner's notable gifts as a historian." —Michael Kammen, Cornell University

"Eric Foner is rightly ranked among our era's most distinguished historians. In Who Owns History?, he takes on some of the most contentious issues in the American past, while candidly describing his own intellectual journeys, and often brilliantly illuminating the nature of the historian's craft."—David M. Kennedy, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Stanford University

"Who Owns History? introduces readers to one of the country's finest historians, Eric Foner, writing about issues more critical to American public life today than ever before."—Joyce Appleby, UCLA