Too Much of a Good Thing

While I generally liked Cronon’s piece, I have to disagree with Molly’s appreciation for Cronon’s point that historical storytelling helps keep us morally engaged. While I think that there is a place for narrative history, I feel that too much much of it will just end up making more objective history more cloudy and harder to see.

I disagree with Cronon’s assertion that competing narrative will help lead to moral truths. With the example of the dust bowl, I feel that comparing Bonnefield and Worster’s arguments won’t lead to moral revelation, but rather a stale political debate. While there is a place for political debate, I don’t not think that it should be in the realm of history. I feel that more objective histories should be written, and if then scholars want to use those to support a political debate that is fine, but that politicizing history is wrong. On page 1374, Cronon writes that “my list of ‘significant Great Plains events’ surely had no effect on anyone’s emotions or moral vision, whereas I doubt anyone can read Donald Worster’s Dust Bowl without being moved in one way or another.” While I believe that his point is certainly true, is being emotionally moved necessary to the study of historical events? While no history can ever be truly objective, I think it is important for historians to try and be as objective as possible when writing histories, especially when the events studied already have some implicit emotional cache, like slavery or the War on Terror. I fear that though interesting, if moralistic narrative histories take over the field that history will become nothing but an over dramatized HBO version of the current academic field.

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