The Rockford Files


Two thousand fifteen was the year that we Americans broke history.  By “breaking history,” I do not mean something like “breaking news,” or “breaking records,” or even “breaking the Internet” (though the Internet certainly played a role).  Yes, the “historic moments” of the Summer of #LoveWins and #HateLoses—the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges and the marking of the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War by an orgy of destruction of the symbols of the losing side in that conflict—helped make the phenomenon manifest, but the reality is that the breaking of history has been a long time coming.

We broke history because fewer and fewer Americans have the desire—much less capacity—to think in historical terms.  Fifty years ago, while writing his magnum opus, Historical Consciousness: The Remembered Past, John Lukacs could be optimistic about the rising and deepening of historical thinking among the American people.  For a few decades, even popular observances—the 100th anniversary of the Civil War; the bicentennial celebrations of the Declaration of Independence and, later, the ratification of the Constitution—were accompanied by a rise in the sale of serious historical works, and local historical societies and museums saw a renaissance.  Having come...

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