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Publisher's Summary

History is to society what memory is to the individual. Without it, we don't know who we are and we can't make wise decisions about our future. But while the nature of memory is constant, the nature of history has changed radically over the past 40 years. In The Purpose of the Past, historian Gordon S. Wood examines this sea change in his field through consideration of some of its most important historians and their works. He offers wonderful insight into what great historians do, how they can stumble, and what strains of thought have dominated the marketplace of ideas in historical scholarship. The result is a history of American history, as well as an argument for its ongoing necessity.
A commanding assessment of the field by one of its masters, The Purpose of the Past will enlarge every reader's capacity to appreciate history.
©2008 Gordon S. Wood (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Eric on 05-23-08

A measured take on history writing

This book is a serious review of a great deal of recent historical work (mostly US Colonial and Revolutionary history). It's well written and argued, laying out broad trends and covering a lot of topics outside of the time periods covered. The books reviewed here don't have to be read before listening to this book-- the reviews fully cover the topics and ideas. This is a wonderful way to cover the period and hear about recent trends in history writing without buying dozens of titles.

You won't be lost with this guide. The presentation is also well done and very clear. If you are at all interested in early American history, and curious about how it's being written, this is a great book.

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13 of 13 people found this review helpful

1 out of 5 stars
By Norman on 01-29-12

Not a book, just a collection of book reviews

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Unfortunately there's no suggestion in Audible's description of this title that it's not a book planned from beginning to end to cover a particular subject. In fact, it's merely an ad hoc collection of book reviews. Any well-published academic can do this, of course, and one feels taken in after buying the book and getting through the introduction to find that it's not at all what the advertising makes it out to be. The same is true of Tony Judt's Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten 20th Century. These books need to be marketed honestly. There's no way they compare to their authors' planned works covering well-chosen and deeply researched topics. Not that I mind buying a book of republished book reviews either, but customers should be told that's what they're getting. Audible: 0 stars.

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3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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