Are True Southrons Actually Hobbits?
In the introductory lecture to his course on the coming of the Civil War, Eric Foner discusses the nature of historical revisionism, and why so many people are deeply uncomfortable with it:
In one of my favorite books of history of a kind, The Fellowship of the Ring by Tolkien, he writes about the hobbits quote “hobbits like to have books filled with things that they already knew set out fair and square with no contradictions.” Of course this is a joke. The hobbits didn’t actually know anything. They knew virtually nothing about the world around them but they were satisfied because they had a familiar view of their own history. People like familiar stories. That’s why the term revisionist historian is a term of abuse out there in the public. Didn’t Governor Christie the other day accused his critics of being revisionist historians? But to us that’s what we do. That is our job as historians to be revisionist. That is to say, to rethink the past, to think about new perspectives, to add new approaches. That’s what historians are supposed to do. But the point is familiarity is not the measure of the truthfulness of historical accounts.
One needs always to keep in mind that the whole secession-wasn’t-about-slavery thing is itself revisionist, deliberately nurtured and embedded in the public consciousness in the decades after the war as the foundation of Lost Cause orthodoxy by people like Jubal Early and Mildred Rutherford. But the fact that it existed long before its modern-day advocates were born doesn’t make it any more true.
“Familiarity is not the measure of the truthfulness of historical accounts.” That kinda gets to the core of things, doesn’t it?