History Is Bunk After All

Henry Ford is reported to have said, “History is bunk.” When Henry Ford died in 1947, the legendary historian Arnold Toynbee is reported to have said, “Henry Ford is history.”

Who knows whether either quip is authentic. This exchange comes to mind in following the latest sequel to the disgrace in academic history that we have covered here and here over the last few days. As noted in our last installment, Prof. James Sweet apologized in the usual groveling fashion for the “harm” he caused by challenging, however mildly, the politicization of academic history. Sweet deserves to see his career sour with this kind of cravenness.

He should have known that this would not be the end of it. As usual it only fed the mob. So much so that the American Historical Association (AHA) has closed off its Twitter account:

How do you tell the difference between “trolls” and the tenured faculty members of most university history departments? And how pathetic are you as a supposedly premier academic organization that you have to “protect” your Twitter feed?

One more note: Sweet’s main critique is that too much academic history has succumbed to “presentism,” that is, looking at history through the lens of current ideological concerns. Guess who admits to exactly this:


In other words, Prof. Sweet has apologized for saying what Nicole Hannah-Jones, the impresario of the 1619 Project, openly boasts.

Seems to me that as far as academic history is concerned, Henry Ford stands vindicated.

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