Category: The Historical Muse

Thoughts on history and the historical profession. Clio is the muse of history–this category title is a play on that concept.

Washington & Arnold: The Role of Character in History

One of my upper-level history courses is on the American Revolution. I’m teaching it again this semester and am using a book I’ve not used before—Nathaniel Philbrick’s Valiant Ambition—with a subtitle that provides the precise goal of the work: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution. History is not about “forces” that make things happen; rather, history is the story of individuals whose decisions push the narrative one way or the other. In this book, Philbrick… Read more »

History, Clocks, Progress, & C. S. Lewis

One of my pet peeves is the phrase about being “on the right side of history.” Its corollary is to avoid being “on the wrong side of history.” Both posit an untruth, one that I labor to show students in my classes: these phrases assume an inevitability. They push us to believe that history is something that has a mind of its own and is going down a preordained path—and you had better get on that path or be swept… Read more »

Socialism/Communism: Symptom of a Deeper Problem

Those who know American history also know that the push for a more socialist society is nothing new. Eugene Debs, the perennial presidential candidate for the Socialist Party during the early decades of the twentieth century received a rather impressive number of votes, especially in 1912. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal pushed us closer to the socialist vision with the rise of government oversight of the economy and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society offered the kind of federal government intrusion that few… Read more »

Law & Order or Rule of Law?

I believe in law. I believe in order. Those words have come to the forefront of our consciousness as a nation in the wake of disorders in a number of cities, and it’s very easy to rally to anyone crying “law and order” because we rightly fear for life, property, and liberty if we descend into disarray and chaos. Tweeting those words in all caps with multiple exclamation points is more an exercise in bluster than an answer to the… Read more »

Living in Many Times & Places

Knowing history is important. For the last thirty-one years, I’ve taught history full-time at different Christian universities. As I noted in a recent post, I’m now an adjunct professor. Yet that change in my life has somehow increased my desire to make sure people know history better, maybe because I’m sensing that my opportunities for teaching may decline in the coming years. C. S. Lewis has a number of noteworthy comments about history in his many writings. For instance, an… Read more »

Phrases in Need of Context

I’ve never been one to jump on bandwagons of trendy phrases and slogans. I’m not going to start now. I don’t care if they emanate from political Left field or political Right field. I avoid them all. Instead, I think it’s important to explain matters cogently and with the proper context, tossing aside phrases that create certain images in people’s minds that may not be accurate. As much as possible, I always want to provide both theological and historical context… Read more »

Historical Nuance & America’s Founding

It’s always important to define one’s terms before delving into an explanation of anything. I would like to begin with a definition of the following word: Nuance: A subtle or slight degree of difference, as in meaning, feeling, or tone. Expression or appreciation of subtle shades of meaning, feeling, or tone. Nuance needs to be applied to history, especially in the current atmosphere where many are angry over injustices that have occurred in American history. There are three attitudes one… Read more »