Which lost historical documents, when uncovered, led to the most substantial revisions in historiography?

I have this romantic idea about the lost writings of Epicurus that perhaps somewhere at the bottom of the Aegean Sea there still lies a ship sunken in Ancient Greek times with copies of the philosopher's writings stored in some waterproof amphorae (or something like that). Maybe one day they will resurface as was the case with the Antikythera wreck and mechanism, or maybe they won't and the ship and its remaining contents will just dissolve into enlarging entropy. Personally, I would certainly welcome their discovery most dearly…

Now my question is along similar lines but more concrete in terms of known history: What were important instances of historic documents (or other artifacts) that were thought lost (e.g. with the library of Alexandria) or that were inaccessible at the time (e.g. in Soviet Russian archives) and that led to significant new historic understanding when new developments occurred and copies became available (perhaps surprisingly)?

And are there trends over time that perhaps show that new such discoveries get rarer as possible sites become more fully explored (or more frequent as historians' technical ability to explore them enhances)?

The first thing that came to mind was the Rosetta Stone. While King Ptolemy V Epiphanes' decree that's inscribed in it is not particularly significant, the Rosseta Stone is a trilingual inscription, written in hieroglyphics, demotic Egyptian and Greek, and it's discovery in 1799 lead to the decipherment of hieroglyphics and thus to a far better understanding of Ancient Egypt. The Rosseta Stone was discovered during Napoleon's campaign in Egypt, and it has a bit of a turbulent history that hasn't settled yet. Almost every multi-lingual inscription discovered was similarly significant, another example would be the Pyrgi Tablets that were key in deciphering the Etruscan language.

Moving on to a more traditional document, Corpus Juris Civilis, the Code of Justinian, was probably accidentally re-discovered in 1070 in northern Italy. It inspired the Napoleonic Code (1804) that abolished feudalism and is often quoted as the root of western legal traditions.

This is the answer I owe you, which I am sure by now will be of no use to you.

Disclaimer: here I answer to my own interpretation of the question. Although this is true for every worldly answer, I felt like writing this warning because of the extent of my freedom of interpretation. Also, because of my limited Mediterranean/European background I might be ignorant of major findings in other parts of the world. So this is the question: "What were important [… ] documents [… ] that were thought lost [… ] and that led to significant new historic understanding when [… ] copies became available [… ]?" My emphasis.

First of all what is a document? Is it a written source only? Certainly some frescos or architectures tell us more than certain written documents: are they documents too? Then: what does it mean to be lost: is it physically lost only? Some interpretations are lost, and hence even though people could read the documents, they would not understand them correctly. Sometimes even very well known documents give us new information when read under a new light. Let's start actually from this latter point of view.

  • A: A negative example: the Holy Bible (HB) and the Hittites (Hs). Because of the positivistic wave in the XIX century, the HB was often disregarded as a valid historical source by scholars. So nobody gave any importance, among other things, to the apparent discrepancy between different appearences of the people of Heth, sometimes referred to as a small tribe, sometimes as a great kingdom. However, at the end of the century, it became clear that a big, previously unknown civilization had existed in Anatolia; in 1906 Hugo Winkler discovered at Boğazköy the ruins of its capital, Hattusa, including an archive of more than 10000 tablets. Thus the Bible was right: the small Caananite tribe of the people of Heth was most probably distinguished from the mighty Kittim, as they are now known. Moreover, an empire as powerful as Egypt of Ramses II had gone almost completely lost for 3 millennia.
  • B: A positive example (with tragic end). The Iliad was regarded as an epic poem loosely based on ancient wars. Scholars argued that a city of Troy might not have existed, and that the episode was rather a summary of ancient episodes of war, collected into an… epic story. But some people stubbornly believed in the myth, until one of them, Heinrich Schliemann, discovered the city of the poem in the hill of Hisarlık. Incidentally, the discovery of the H civilization added more weight to the episode narrated in the Iliad. The city of Troy, or Ilium, should in fact correspond to the H "Wilusa". See e.g. this and [3]. Sadly the discovery led to the destruction of a considerable portion of the material, including the Troy of the poem.
  • C: Finally, and on a personal note, Herodotus' Histories. You might know how Herodotus' reputation changed over time. In ancient times, because of writers like e.g. Tucidides, the opininon on the historian was negative, because of him citing unverified and de relato sources. Among the "fantastic stories" were the one about Phoenicians traveling from the Red Sea to Gibraltar, circumnavigating Africa. They found a big river flowing eastwards, a population of small black men and the sun "going to the right". I love that passage, so please forgive the long citation from Book iv of the Histories:
  1. [… ] for Libya furnishes proofs about itself that it is surrounded by sea, except so much of it as borders upon Asia; and this fact was shown by Necos king of the Egyptians first of all those about whom we have knowledge. He when he had ceased digging the channel which goes through from the Nile to the Arabian gulf, sent Phenicians with ships, bidding them sail and come back through the Pillars of Heracles to the Northern Sea and so to Egypt. The Phenicians therefore set forth from the Erythraian Sea and sailed through the Southern Sea; and when autumn came, they would put to shore and sow the land, wherever in Libya they might happen to be as they sailed, and then they waited for the harvest: and having reaped the corn they would sail on, so that after two years had elapsed, in the third year they turned through the Pillars of Heracles and arrived again in Egypt. And they reported a thing which I cannot believe, but another man may, namely that in sailing round Libya they had the sun on their right hand.

  2. [… ] Sataspes [… went] into the presence of king Xerxes, he reported saying that at the furthest point which he reached he was sailing by dwarfish people, who used clothing made from the palm-tree, and who, whenever they came to land with their ship, left their towns and fled away to the mountains: and they, he said, did no injury when they entered into the towns, but took food from them only. And the cause, he said, why he had not completely sailed round Libya was that the ship could not advance any further but stuck fast.

(My emphasis) These facts, far from being "fantastic", are all very likely. In particular the last one has been confirmed only relatively recently, when it was discovered that Pygyes used to inhabit coastal areas of Equatorial Africa before the expansion of the Bantu. The "thing [he] cannot believe" is very hard to explain without admitting that Phoenician travelers had passed the Equator and that the episode was popular enough to reach Herodotus and for him to recount it. We had to admit that ancient seafarer peoples had much more extended knowledge about the world than we were previously convinced of.

Back to the question, if we intend lost only as physically inaccessible, then many archeological findings can be classified as "thought to be lost" and later rediscovered.

  • A: Just because I'm lazy I'd cite again the discovery of the royal archives in Hattusa.
  • B: the discovery of Pompei was much more important, in that it brought a wealth of information about life in the Roman Empire.
  • C: a somewhat small discovery as the serendipitous finding of a room of Domus Aurea left a trace in modern language in the word grotesque and allegedly had some role in the Italian Renaissance, with the greatest artist visiting the room before the frescos vanished.

If we instead strictly limit ourselves to documents thought as written documents only, I would like to cite:

  • A: The discovery of the Tocharian civilization in Central Asia, near the border of the Tarim Basin, had profound implications for Indoeuropean studies. It shifted eastward by several thousands miles the baricenter of the Indoeuropean people.
  • B: Hattusa's royal archives contain extended historical records. These, unlike e.g. contemporary Egyptian records, are considered much more reliable. In fact, because of their religious convinctions, Hittite Kings were not allowed to distort the facts too much, whereas the Pharaohs used to record events mostly for propaganda reasons [3] The best known example is the recording of the Battle of Kadesh, which was reported as a crushing victory in Egyptian records. Reality was probably different, if the Egyptian sphere of influence stayed roughly the same. The following peace treaty is the first international treaty, and a copy of it is displayed in New York in the UN Headquarters.
  • C: dulcis in fundo, and perhaps my best answer to your question, also in terms of impact, is the rediscovery of the classical heritage during the first phase of the Renaissance. A considerable part of classical culture was temporarily lost, and only preserved thanks to monasteries. It was there that the great scholars of the period re-discovered lost and forgotten works, leading to a great change in perspective and knowledge culminating in the Renaissance proper.

This list is necessarily incomplete, because of the subjective nature of the "impact" a discovery has. Even though my preference goes to the last item, then there is no specific document I would pick as the most important one. Consider However that we are speaking about rediscovery of Cicero and Livy, among others. Think about such a discovery nowadays…

PS. The Jordanian Lead Codices are almost certainly a forgery. I had heard of the discovery in 2011 but did not investigate further developements until the time of writing this answer.

[3]: Hetiter. Die unbekannte Weltmacht, B. Brandau & H. Schickert, Piper Verlag GmbH, Munich, 2001

Divided Memories: History Textbooks and the Wars in Asia

Japanese history textbooks and their treatment of the wartime era has become an almost constant subject of international dispute in the last three decades. For critics, both inside and outside Japan, the content of those textbooks is evidence of a failure to take responsibility for the outbreak of the Asia-Pacific War or to acknowledge the suffering the Japanese military imposed on conquered Asian nations and the crimes committed in combat with the Allies. The decision of the Japanese education authorities to approve certain textbooks for use, or to reshape the content and language of the books, is presented as evidence of a nationalist tilt in Japan. Most importantly, Japanese textbooks were seen to fail to properly educate new generations of Japanese about their past.

Those views are not without some substance. Japanese history textbooks do not provide students with a detailed accounting of Japanese colonial rule, particularly in Korea. They have avoided or downplayed some of the more controversial aspects of the wartime period, such as the coercive recruitment of women for sexual services by the Japanese Imperial Army, the so-called comfort women. And at times, under pressure from conservative revisionists and their political supporters, the textbook screening process of the Ministry of Education has attempted to soften language describing Japan&rsquos aggression.

The Divided Memories and Reconciliation project of the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia Pacific Research Center (APARC) at Stanford University, however, belies the essence of this widely held view of the particularly egregious nature of Japanese history textbooks. The project, directed by Professor Gi-Wook Shin and myself, was a multiyear study to better understand how historical memory about the wartime period is being shaped. It began with history textbooks and moved on to look at the role of popular culture&mdashin particular film&mdashand of elite opinion in shaping the view of the wartime past. Significantly, the Stanford project adopted a comparative approach, looking at Japan in comparison with other major Pacific war participants, principally China, South Korea, and, not least, the United States.

I should like to discuss a remarkable historiographical event&mdashan event so recent that it may have escaped general notice, yet of considerable importance both for historians and for the larger culture of which we are a part. This event is the collapse of the traditional dramatic organization of Western history. We have long depended upon it, as inhabitants of the modern world, to put the present into some distant temporal perspective and, as professional historians pursuing our particular investigations, to provide us with some sense of how the various fields of history are related to each other as parts of a larger whole. Thus, the subject seems appropriate for a general session of our annual meeting. The subject is also appropriate for me, as a historian of the Renaissance, because of the pivotal position of the Renaissance in the traditional pattern. Indeed, the historian of the Renaissance has long been the principal guardian of that pattern. But historians of the Renaissance have lately been unable&mdashor unwilling&mdashto fulfill this old responsibility. Hence, this essay is also a kind of oblique professional autobiography, though I point this out only for the sake of candor, not as a further inducement to your attention.

Nothing seemed less likely than this development when I entered the profession some thirty years ago or, indeed, before the last two decades. Earlier in this century, the Burckhardtian vision of the importance of the Renaissance for the formation of the modern world had been under attack in the "revolt of the medievalists" and in 1940 Wallace K. Ferguson had described the Renaissance as "the most intractable problem child of historiography."1 But Ferguson had himself never been without hope for straightening out his problem child and less than a decade later, after studying the history of the case from many directions, he predicted for it a tranquil and prosperous maturity. The time was ripe, he declared, for "a new and more comprehensive synthesis."2 The revolt of the medievalists had apparently been beaten back indeed, by teaching us greater care in distinguishing the new from the old, they seemed only to have strengthened our sense of the originality and modernity of the Renaissance. In the years after the war a group of unusually distinguished scholars brought new excitement to Renaissance studies the concreteness and depth of their learning seemed to confirm Ferguson's expectations.3

During the fifties, therefore, it was common for Renaissance specialists from various disciplines to celebrate, by reading papers to each other, their triumph over the medievalists and the world-historical significance of the Renaissance. Our agreement was remarkable. The editor of one volume of such papers noted with satisfaction "the virtual disappearance of the disposition to deny that there was a Renaissance." And he ventured to predict, obviously recalling controversies now happily over, "that future soldier scholars will beat their swords into ploughshares and that what has long been the Renaissance battleground will be transformed into a plain of peace and plenty." On the other hand, he also hinted that the occasion evoking these papers was a bit dull. "The atmosphere of charitable catholicity was so all pervading during the symposium," he remarked, "that even the moderators' valiant efforts to provoke controversy were largely futile."4 That the Renaissance was the critical episode in a dramatic process that would culminate in ourselves had become an orthodoxy that few cared&mdashor dared&mdashto question.

The notion of an abiding consensus among historians of any complex subject may now seem rather surprising, and this agreeable situation was probably in part a reflection of the general consensus of the Eisenhower years, when we were all beating our swords into ploughshares. That same irenic mood, that same amiable but slightly complacent consensus, also left its mark on other fields of history. The gentle complaint of our editor, disappointed in his hopes for a little fun at a scholarly symposium, hinted at the charge of dullness brought by bored professors against their boring students of the silent generation&mdashupon which we would soon enough be looking back with a degree of nostalgia. For since the 1960s the world around us has dramatically changed, and with it historiography.

These two sets of changes are not unrelated, and the result for the Renaissance has been rather different from what Ferguson foresaw. In his vision the Renaissance was to retain its pivotal position in the old scenario, but our knowledge of it would be better pulled together. But this has not occurred. Although the consensus of the golden 1950s has not been seriously challenged, we are now remarkably indifferent to the world-historical importance of the Renaissance.5 We go about our particular investigations as though the Renaissance problem had evaporated we neither affirm nor bother to deny that there was a Renaissance. And the venerable Renaissance label has become little more than an administrative convenience, a kind of blanket under which we huddle together less out of mutual attraction than because, for certain purposes, we have nowhere else to go.6

I do not mean to exaggerate the abruptness of this development. In retrospect we can see that the role of historians in the postwar rehabilitation of the Renaissance was always somewhat ambiguous. We accepted what was said in praise of the Renaissance by representatives of other humanistic disciplines the importance of the Renaissance for them enhanced our own importance. But, like Garrett B. Mattingly on one such occasion, we were sometimes "puzzled" about what we might contribute to a Renaissance symposium.7 The normal skepticism of a professional historian in the presence of large views has now given way, however, to agnosticism and even indifference about what was once the central claim of Renaissance scholarship.

This result may have been implicit in Ferguson's call for synthesis, with which most of us were sympathetic even in the 1950s without fully realizing its implications. It implied the integration of all of our data, an aspiration that seemed unexceptionable. But the ideal of "synthesis"&mdashat least for a generation not yet dialectically sophisticated&mdashwas essentially static. Synthesis tended to shift the emphasis in Renaissance studies from process, on which the traditional estimate of the Renaissance depended, to structure or, minimally, from the long-range processes which gave European history a larger narrative shape to particular, ostensibly self-contained (and in this sense inconsequential), more limited processes. This tendency was supplemented by an influence from another direction: our supposedly innocent but in fact deeply insidious course catalogues. We should treat the course catalogue with more respect. Partly because we are inclined to take it so lightly, it is one of the most potent forces in historiography: it tends to organize the past, for the sake of "coverage," as a sequence of chronologically bounded segments, the number of which reflects the size of our departments. The individual historian is then made responsible for one of these segments, with the expectation that he will deal with it in all of its aspects. And the assignment defined for him by the catalogue, when he is young and malleable, is likely to shape his general understanding of what it means to "do" history.8 Thus, the influence of the catalogue has various consequences, among which the most positive is to deepen the historian's sense of complexity. But the catalogue also discourages him from intruding into adjacent segments that "belong" to his colleagues and by the same token it encourages him, however conscious he may be of the arbitrariness of the dates bounding his assignment, to treat his segment as self-contained. At the very least, he feels compelled out of esthetic motives to portray it as some kind of intelligible unity.9

Historians of the Renaissance have responded to these pressures in two ways. First, we began to distinguish more and more clearly between "the Renaissance" itself, a cluster of cultural movements pregnant with the future, and the "age of the Renaissance," the more general context within which we encountered these movements. The "age of the Renaissance" was invoked to accommodate in some unstable tension with the novelty and modernity of Renaissance culture whatever seemed inconsistent or in tension with it. But we tended at first to regard these anomalies as so many medieval residues, destined to yield ineluctably, in the long run, to its modernizing forces. This approach was hardly the method of synthesis.

But at the same time we were increasingly uncomfortable with the rather mechanical work of sorting our data into two heaps, one marked "continuities," the other "innovations." This discomfort led to a second move that seems on the surface to have brought us closer to synthesis: we began to describe the age of the Renaissance as the age of transition to the modern world. And this formula, which now appears with some regularity in our textbooks, has provoked little dissent. Indeed, the formula appears to exclude the possibility of dissent, for it is nicely calculated to accommodate every anomaly and at the same time to protect the significance of the Renaissance. This, of course, is its purpose. To the objection that every past age might equally be represented as transitional, we can reply that this one was unusually transitional, that it was an age of accelerated transition.10 This position now gives a semblance of agreement to Renaissance scholarship, enabling us to engage in a wide variety of tasks, comfortable in the belief that our larger claims are secure&mdashand effectively indifferent to them.

Nevertheless, there are difficulties in this apparently unexceptionable strategy. For one thing, it neglects to state the criteria by which one age can be considered more transitional than another by begging this question, which was at the heart of our controversy with the medievalists, it invites a new revolt from that direction as well as protests from other quarters. The strategy also seems to me conceptually confused, a reflection of the chronic temptation of the historian to identify "history" as the actuality of the past with "history" as the construction he makes of its records. For history as actuality, an "age" is simply a considerable span of time for history as construction, an "age" is a segment of the past on which he can impose some intelligibility. The notion of an "age of transition" thus exploits what is essentially a structural conception to assert for the Renaissance a continuing significance that actually derives from its place in a process.

This confusion points to a further problem, since the notion of a transitional age depends on the intelligibility of the "ages" it supposedly connects. The Renaissance as "transition" suggests something like an unsteady bridge between two granitic headlands, clearly identifiable as the Middle Ages and the modern (or, at least, the early modern) world. As a Renaissance specialist, I am reluctant to commit myself about the present stability of these two adjacent historiographical promontories. But my impression is that neither medieval nor early modern historians would be altogether comfortable with the image.11 And as an inhabitant of the modern world, I find it rather too amorphous, unintelligible, and contradictory, at least as a whole, to provide any stable mooring for such a bridge. I am, in short, doubtful whether we are yet in any position to represent our own time as an intelligible age.

But a reflection of this kind takes us beyond internal historiographical pressures to the impact of contemporary experience on historiography. And such experience may, in the end, be the major cause for the present disarray of Renaissance scholarship: since we are baffled by the modern world, we are hardly in a position to argue for the relevance to it, at least in the traditional way, of the Renaissance.12 For the argument that attached the Renaissance to the modern world was based on two assumptions: that the modern world does, in fact, constitute some kind of intelligible entity, and that modernity has emerged by way of a single linear process. Neither, of these assumptions is, at least for me, self-evident. To be a competent historian of the Renaissance is, of course, hard enough, even without engaging in extracurricular ventures of this kind but my efforts to sample the work of those scholars who have struggled to define the modern condition leave me as uncertain as the modern world itself.13 And I am further bewildered by the suggestion that we have now entered into a "postmodern" age. Meanwhile, the collapse of the idea of progress has profoundly subverted our sense of the direction of history. We can agree, perhaps, only that the present is the complex product of a remarkably tangled past.

Other pressures from the surrounding world have also weakened the ability of the historian of the Renaissance to defend the old dramatic organization of Western history and have at the same time promoted an alternative. Brought into focus by the social and cultural ferment of the1960s, so stimulating to historiography in other areas, these pressures have left the Renaissance in a partial eclipse. They pose a radical challenge&mdashone that we have largely ignored&mdashto our own doubtful compromise between process and structure.14

This challenge is related to a generous concern with the historiographically neglected and suffering majority of mankind that has diverted attention from those elites whose achievements have been the mainstay of claims for the Renaissance. From this standpoint historical significance tends to be defined largely as a function of numbers, of mass, and, hence, of the masses this interest in the masses may suggest an ideological and even sentimental content in the supposedly cold and scientific impulse toward quantification. But mass also suggests matter and, therefore, points to the material basis of human existence, with a concomitant tendency to rely on the architectural model&mdashso disruptive of traditional historiography&mdashof superstructure and infrastructure, against the idealism often implicit in the preoccupation of historians of the Renaissance with high culture. A further consequence of this interest has been an emphasis on the more inert aspects of the past, with reduced attention to what had traditionally been seen as the source of the most dynamic forces in modern history. Meanwhile, the peculiar insecurity of the last two decades seems to have intensified the occasional yearning of the historian to regard himself as a scientist and the methods recently devised to promote this aspiration and to open up new social groups to investigation have not been suited to the ways of Renaissance study, which has depended chiefly on the cultivated judgment and creative imagination of the individual historian.

These impulses have conspicuously been at work in the new social history, which has produced results of great interest, if chiefly for a later period, and which seems to me itself a remarkable feat of the historical imagination. This much is, I think, indisputable, however skeptical one may be of its scientific pretensions15 and of the claims of some of its practitioners to have overcome at last the distinction between history as actuality and history as construction. And it is particularly instructive from the standpoint of our present difficulties with the Renaissance, because it displays the results of a deliberate and wholehearted acceptance of that notion of an "age" with which the historian of the Renaissance has dealt so gingerly. It may also help to explain why he has preferred compromise.

I am referring to the concept of the longue duree, the intelligible age par excellence, whose implications for the Renaissance emerge with special clarity in a recent essay by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie.16 This piece offers a general interpretation of the extended period between about the eleventh and the nineteenth century. Situated between two intervals of innovation and expansion, this true age is, for Le Roy Ladurie, an intelligible unity, given fundamental coherence by a kind of grim Malthusian balance. The productivity of agriculture was limited, population was limited by it, and the material conditions of life for the vast majority were virtually unchangeable. By the democratic criterion of numbers, this long period was, except in insignificant detail, changeless Le Roy Ladurie has accordingly described it as "motionless."

From this standpoint the period of the Renaissance appears as little more than, in a double sense, the dead center of a much longer age in which the conventional distinction between medieval and early modern Europe has been obliterated. At most, the Renaissance is a conjoncture that is intelligible only in a far larger temporal context. But the full implications of the argument emerge only in Le Roy Ladurie's reply to the objections that might be raised against it by more traditional historians:

One might object to this conception of motionless history . because it is a little too negligent of such fundamental innovations of the period as Pascal's divine revelation, Papin's steam engine and the growth of a very great city like Paris, or the progress of civility among the upper classes as symbolized by the introduction of the dinner fork. Far be it from me to question the radically new character of these episodes. But what interests me is the becoming, or rather the non-becoming of the faceless mass of people. The accomplishments of the elite are situated on a higher and more isolated plane and are not really significant except from the point of view, of a noisy minority, carriers of progress without doubt, but as yet incapable of mobilizing the enormous mass of rural humanity enmeshed in its Ricardian feedback.17

One has only to substitute&mdashfor Pascal, Papin, Paris, and the dinner fork&mdashany random set of Renaissance accomplishments&mdashPetrarch's historical consciousness, the Copernican Revolution, the Florentine city-state with its civic rhetoric, and double-entry bookkeeping, for example&mdashto appreciate the mordant implications here for the Renaissance.

Although the plausibility of this argument, which appears to illustrate the consequences of a thoroughgoing "synthesis," has perhaps been one element in the present disarray of Renaissance historiography, its approach also has limitations (as I am hardly the first to point out18) that make it less decisive for the Renaissance than it may first appear. Largely an adaptation of French structuralism, Le Roy Ladurie's thesis carries with it the antihistorical bias of that movement: structuralist analysis of the past has never been well adapted to deal with change. The consequences are apparent when Le Roy Ladurie, too good a historian to ignore this problem, must account for the end of his longue duree, when motion was finally restored to human affairs, the constraints on agriculture loosened, the old Malthusian cycle was broken, the migration from field to factory could begin, and the masses were at last expelled from the traditional world into, presumably, a new age.

At this point Le Roy Ladurie's rich ironies seem to serve chiefly as a rhetorical justification for the limitation of his vision to what, as he so disarmingly puts it, "interests" him. Here we become aware of a difference both in strategy and tone. Since the masses were helpless to bring about this ambiguous denouement, that ridiculous noisy minority becomes unexpectedly important. Now it represents "forces of elitist renovation which had been building up slowly over the course of centuries" and which finally succeeded, after about 1720, in "setting off an avalanche."19 This "build-up of forces" might suggest that Paris and the steam engine&mdashand even, more obscurely, Pascal and the fork&mdashare after all, if one is interested in that "avalanche," worth some attention. And back of them lies the Renaissance&mdashnot, perhaps, as an "age" but (in the terms of its traditional interpretation) as a critical moment in a process that would in the long run significantly transform the world. The impulses not altogether arbitrarily associated with the Renaissance&mdashits individualism and its practical and empirical rationality&mdashwere, though immediately limited to a statistically insignificant minority, destined for some importance even from the standpoint of the majority.20 I do not mean to deny the value of structural description indeed, it provides essential safeguards against anachronism for the historian primarily interested in process.21 But structures can hardly exhaust the concern of the historian the past is not simply a world we have lost.

The inability of a history of structures to deal with change has, however, a further consequence. Its neglect of the continuities that link the past with the present and one "age" to the next opens the way to an interpretation of change as cataclysm, with the implication that the modern world is genetically related to the past only remotely. Our own time thus appears as something like a biological mutation, whose survival value remains an open question. For the structural approach to the past may ignore but cannot, after all, repudiate process altogether. One set of structures obviously does, somehow, give way to another. The effect of this approach is to promote, however inadvertently, a discontinuous concept of process. Thus, for the myth of continuity with the Renaissance it substitutes what I will call the myth of apocalyptic modernization. In calling this a myth, I mean nothing pejorative.22 A myth is, for the historian, the dynamic equivalent of a model in the social sciences, and we can hardly do without it. The crucial transition from chronicle to history depended on the application of some principle of mythical organization to previously discrete data: the myth of the hero, the myth of collective advance, the myth of decline. That the weakening of one mythical pattern should have left a kind of vacuum for another myth to fill is hardly surprising.

So the apocalyptic myth&mdasha product partly of our own self-importance and partly of the mingled hopes and anxieties generated by recent experience&mdashhas emerged, though it is not itself peculiarly modern. A modification of the basic Western myth of linear time of a type periodically recurrent under conditions of stress, the apocalyptic myth provides an alternative to the idea of continuous development, with which it can be variously combined. Indeed, it is not altogether different from the Renaissance notion of radical discontinuity with the Middle Ages. In discussing it critically, I am aware of a certain analogy with the medievalists' protests against the idea of the Renaissance.

Largely, as a result of those protests, historians of the Renaissance generally gave up the apocalyptic dimension of the original Renaissance myth, at least as it related to the past. Without renouncing the novelties of the Renaissance, they recognized its continuities with the Middle Ages, themselves increasingly seen as complex. In other words, they made distinctions, within both periods, among contrary tendencies. But these careful distinctions took care of only half of the Renaissance problem. Thus, if we are still in disarray, the explanation may ultimately be that we have failed to modify in the same way that element in the Renaissance myth that pointed to the future: its perception of the modern world&mdashthe goal of the historical process&mdashas a coherent entity. Since we can no longer support our claims for the Renaissance origins of the modern world so conceived, we have fallen silent. If this is true, the full solution to the Renaissance problem would thus depend on our giving as much attention to the complexities and contradictions of our own time as we have given to those of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and on being equally selective about the relation of the Renaissance to the modern world. Among its other advantages, this solution might enable us to put the apocalyptic myth itself in some perspective we might then notice that some reaction against it is already under way in the social sciences.23

Such selectivity might enable us to claim for the Renaissance a substantial role in the formation of those tendencies in our own world that perhaps have a better claim to modernity than does the present apocalyptic mood: the skeptical, relativistic, and pragmatic strains in contemporary culture.24 These strains would suggest, in place of the apocalyptic myth, something like the myth of Prometheus, itself of some interest to Renaissance thought25&mdashPrometheus who, by tricking Zeus and stealing the fire that made possible the arts, endowed man with the power to create a world in which he could survive alone. Such a myth might be interpreted to mean that the world man inhabits is formed, not through some transcendent and ineluctable process&mdashwhether cataclysmic or uniform&mdashbut only out of his own shifting needs and unpredictable inventiveness. From this standpoint, the basic peculiarity of the modern world might be seen as the present consciousness of human beings of their power to shape the world they inhabit, including the social world and, by extension, themselves. A (for us) poignant reflection of this situation might be the unique predicament of the modern historian, who is in a position to choose, among various possibilities, the myth most useful to impose dramatic organization on his data&mdasha problem of which previous historians were largely unaware. In modern culture, then, the determinism and helplessness implicit in the apocalyptic myth are opposed by a still lively belief in human freedom.

The modern sense of the creative freedom of mankind now finds stimulating expression in a concept of culture that underlies the work of a group of distinguished contemporary anthropologists.26 According to this view of the human condition, the universe man inhabits is essentially a complex of meanings of his own devising man, as Max Weber perceived him, is "an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun."27 These webs make up his culture or, more exactly, since they are utterly various, his cultures. Furthermore, as philosophers and linguists have made increasingly clear, he spins these webs from language. Through language man orders the chaos of data impinging on his sensorium from, in a singularly mysterious and problematic sense, "out there," organizing them into categories and so making them intelligible, manageable, and useful. The human world might, therefore, be described as a vast rhetorical production, for the operations that bring it into existence are comparable to such basic rhetorical transactions as division and comparison, or metonymy and metaphor.28 This concept denies not that an objective universe exists but only that man has direct access to it or can know what it is apart from what he makes of it, out of his own limited perceptual and intellectual resources and for his own purposes, whatever these might be.29

The epistemological decisions embedded in language are thus the pre-condition of human apprehension of an external world culture in this sense is prior to both materialism and idealism, which represent contrary efforts to assign ontological status to&mdashin the language of sociology, to legitimize&mdasha world whose actual source in the creativity of man violates the all-too-human need for transcendence.30 From this standpoint history presents itself not as a single process but as a complex of processes, which interests us insofar as we are interested in the almost infinite possibilities of human existence. Beyond this, history as construction often tends to be a misleading and sometimes pernicious reification.

Here, I am only advancing on an old position in the historiography of the Renaissance from a somewhat new direction. For the kind of history this approach suggests was very much that of the most distinguished historians of the Renaissance of the last hundred years, Jacob Burckhardt and Johann Huizinga, notable pioneers in what both called cultural history. Misled by their concentration on evidence drawn from the culture of elites, we have tended to see in their work no more than the study of "superstructure," losing sight of the generous conception of culture underlying their work. For Burckhardt, the proper subject of Kulturgeschichte was not simply the arts, which were relatively neglected in his account of the Renaissance, but "what moves the world and what is of penetrating influence, . the indispensable."31 For Huizinga, cultural history required the identification of "deeper, general themes" and "the patterns of life, thought, and art taken all together," which he was prepared to pursue in every dimension of human experience.32 And both had such reservations about the modern world that neither would have found much satisfaction in representing it as the goal of history.

This conception of culture is perhaps the contemporary world's most general legacy from the Renaissance: the recognition that culture is a product of the creative adjustment of the human race to its varying historical circumstances rather than a function of universal and changeless nature, and theperception that culture accordingly differs from time to time and group to group. This insight of the Renaissance suggested that mankind, by its own initiatives, could, for better or worse, shape its own earthly condition. Hints of this idea can be found earlier, of course, both in antiquity and in the Middle Ages and even in the Renaissance the idea was limited to certain groups in which it only occasionally became explicit&mdashas it did for Petrarch and Nicholas of Cusa (though only at certain moments), for Sir Philip Sidney, and for Montaigne. But this shocking view of the human condition made its first durable impression on the Western consciousness then and has continued to shape our world.

The high culture of the Renaissance immediately revealed some of the implications of the new conception of culture. Scholars became aware of the distinct, historically contingent cultures of antiquity, while the voyages of exploration discovered the varieties of contemporary culture in America and the Orient. Although the first European responses to these revelations tended to be ethnocentric, the relativism of Montaigne suggested that another kind of reaction was already possible. Meanwhile, cultural expression was being conceived, more modestly, not as a total and authoritative reflection of external reality but as a particular human insight, conveyed by isolated proverbs, pensees, familiar essays, small areas of practical or esthetic order, of which the autonomous painting of Renaissance art provides a nice symbol.

Perhaps the most profound indication that a radical shift in the understanding of culture was taking place&mdashand, hence, a shift in the sense of man's relation to the world and to himself&mdashcan be seen in the Renaissance crisis of language, that basic instrument in the formation of culture.33 The first sign of that crisis was a growing uneasiness, at first among the most abstract thinkers but then more broadly, that the human vocabulary was failing to mirror the objective world. Words, it was widely lamented, no longer corresponded to things. This lament was often taken to mean that the vocabulary should be reformed so that this traditional identity could be restored: a demand, in effect, for a return to the dependence of culture upon external nature. But then an alternative solution to the problem began to unfold. Skepticism about the capacity of the human mind to grasp the structures of nature directly led to growing doubt about the possibility of such an identity, to a recognition of the conventionality of language and its susceptibility to change, to the perception of language as a human creation, and eventually to the conclusion that, as the creator of language, man also shapes through language the only world he can know directly, including even himself.

This insight was a major impulse behind the brilliant imaginative literature of the Renaissance, which was one channel for the diffusion of this new concept of language. So was the steady displacement of Latin, the language of absolute truths both sacred and profane, by the European vernaculars, not only in literature but in law and administration. The variety of the vernaculars suggested that language was based on the consensus of particular peoples, arrived at by the processes of history and the growing expressiveness of the various languages of Europe appeared to demonstrate that linguistic change signified not that the primordial identity of language with the real world was being corrupted&mdashthe traditional view propounded by Socrates in the Cratylus&mdashbut that language is a flexible tool. The rich elaboration of vernacular languages was not only the deliberate project of elites but a spontaneous and increasingly popular eruption to meet the shifting requirements of existence.

There was thus nothing ethereal about this portentous cultural shift. If a common culture is the foundation of community and limits the possible modes of social organization and social action, it is also responsive to changing social needs, themselves culturally defined. And, like other historical phenomena, the subtle and reciprocal dialogue between culture and society is open to investigation.34 The expanding linguistic resources of Renaissance culture simultaneously facilitated and reflected the development of a more complex urban and monarchical society. The sense that language does not simply mirror, passively, the structures of external nature but functions as a tool to serve the practical needs of social existence eventually stimulated reflection about the uses and creative possibilities of language. And we can see in those reflections the germ of a new vision of human culture.

Whether given practical expression in the creative modification of language or, at another level, in the Renaissance idea of self-fashioning,35 the notion of man as creator of himself and the world was heady stuff. It found expression in the modern expectation that government, the economy, and education should constantly reconstruct society, the environment, and man himself in accordance with the constantly changing expectations of mankind. There are doubtless limits to such an enterprise, both in the malleability of physical and biological reality and in man's own moral capacities,36 that this aspiration tends to overlook. These limits and the attempts to exceed them help to explain a perennial impulse since the Renaissance to react against the creativity and freedom of Renaissance culture toward various types of philosophical and scientific determinism and, thus, also to explain the contradictions of the modern world. Perhaps the Renaissance vision of man with its vast practical consequences has needed, from time to time, to be chastened in this way. But it has so far survived as the major resource with which to oppose the temptation to escape from the anxieties of the human condition into new versions of authoritarianism.

I began these remarks by announcing the collapse of the dramatic scheme that has long organized our vision of the general career of Western history. Since I think that drama is vital to historiography, because it enables us to impose form on the processes of history and so to make them intelligible, this seems to me an ominous development, especially since it has invited the substitution of another dramatic scheme that would deprive us of our roots in the past. But, although I have argued for the continuing significance of the Renaissance, I have not tried simply to defend the traditional pattern, which seems to me seriously defective, in ways that the legacy of Renaissance culture also helps us understand. The old dramatic pattern, with its concept of linear history moving the human race ineluctably to its goal in the modern world depended on concealed principles of transcendence inappropriate to the human understanding of human affairs. The trinity of acts composing the great drama of human history and its concept of the modern epoch as not just the latest but the last act of the play bear witness to its eschatological origins,37 and such notions seem to me peculiarly inappropriate to so human an enterprise as that of the historian. But I also find the traditional scheme unsatisfactory because it is not dramatic enough. It fails to accommodate the sense of contingency and, therefore, suspense&mdashthe sense that the drama might have turned out otherwise&mdashthat belongs to all human temporal experience. Though it has survived for over five centuries, for example, I see no reason to assume that the anthropological vision we owe to the Renaissance is destined to triumph forever over the forces arrayed against it, and much in the modern world suggests the contrary.

But the more human concept of the drama of history that had its effective origins in the Renaissance, understanding of culture overcomes these various disadvantages. Its pluralism implies the possibility of a multiplicity of historical dramas, both simultaneous and successive and so it relieves us of the embarrassment, inherent in a linear and eschatological vision of time, of repeatedly having to reclassify in other terms what for a previous generation seemed modern. Since it perceives history as a part of culture and also, therefore, a human creation, it permits us constantly to reconstruct the dramas of history and so to see the past in fresh relationships to ourselves. Above all, since it insists on no particular outcome for the dramas of history, it leaves the future open.

William James Bouwsma (November 22, 1923&ndashMarch 2, 2004) was an American scholar and historian of the European Renaissance. He was Sather Professor of History Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley.


I should like to acknowledge at the outset the helpful criticism this paper received from Thomas A. Brady, Jr. of the University of Oregon and from my Berkeley colleagues Gene Brucker and Randolph Starn.

1. Ferguson, The Renaissance (New York, 1940), 2.

2. Ferguson, The Renaissance in Historical Thought (Boston, 1948), 389.

3. For some of the works that particularly influenced me at this time, in addition to those of Ferguson, see Paul Oskar Kristeller, The Classics and Renaissance Thought (Cambridge, Mass., 1955) Hans Baron, The Crisis of the Early Italian Renaissance: Civic Humanism and Republican Liberty in an Age of Classicism and Tyranny, 2 vols. (Princeton, 1955) Eugenio Garin, L'umanesimo italiano (Bari, 1958) and the various essays of Erwin Panofsky, especially "Renaissance and Renascences," Kenyon Review, 6 (1944): 201-36.

4. Tinsley Helton, ed. The Renaissance: A Reconsideration of the Theories and Interpretations of the Age (Madison, Wisc., 1961), xi-xii. The papers in this volume were presented at a symposium at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee in 1959. For other symposia, see The Renaissance: A Symposium (New York, 1953) and Bernard O'Kelly, ed., The Renaissance Image of Man and the World (Columbus, Ohio, 1966).

5. Randolph Starn has called attention to this see his review of Nicolai Rubinstein, ed., Florentine Studies: Politics and Society in Renaissance Italy (London, 1968), in Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance, 32 (1970): 682-83. Also see his "Historians and 'Crisis,'" Past & Present, no. 52 (1971): 19.

6. For explicit recognition that the term functions chiefly as an administrative convenience, see Brian Pullan, A History of Early Renaissance Italy from the Mid-Thirteenth to the Mid-Fifteenth Century (London, 1973), 11.

7. Mattingly, "Some Revisions of the Political History of the Renaissance," in Helton, The Renaissance: A Reconsideration, 3.

8. The effect of this periodization by course sequences has doubtless been intensified by the decline of introductory surveys of European history.

9. There may be analogies here with the consequences of specialization in other occupations, notably medicine.

10. In his Renaissance in Historical Thought, Ferguson tied the notion of transition to synthesis he combined the two strategies in Europe in Transition, 1300-1520 (Boston, 1962), the first large-scale presentation of the period in these terms, though this project was already foreshadowed in his "The Interpretation of the Renaissance: Suggestions for a Synthesis," Journal of the History of Ideas, 12 (1951): 483-95. For other works that rely on the idea of transition, see Eugene F. Rice, Jr., The Foundations of Early Modern Europe, 1466-1559 (New York, 1970), ix Lewis W. Spitz, The Renaissance and Reformation Movements (Chicago, 1971), vii, 3 and Pullan, Early Renaissance Italy, 11. The widespread assumption that textbooks such as these are no part of our "serious" work seems to me both troubling and mistaken.

11. It may be noted that medievalists who write about the Renaissance tend to see it not as a "transition" but as having a distinct identity of its own. See, for example, Denys Hay, The Italian Renaissance in Its Historical Background (Cambridge, 1961), 14-25 and Robert S. Lopez, The Three Ages of the Italian Renaissance (Charlottesville, N.C., 1970), 73.

12. For a work that is especially sensitive to this problem, see Rice, Foundations of Early Modern Europe, x.

13. I have been helped to see the complexity of this problem by Richard D. Brown's work see his Modernization: The Transformation of American Life, 1600-1865 (New York, 1976), 3-22.

14. For a stimulating exception, see John Hale, Renaissance Europe: The Individual and Society, 1486-1520 (London, 1971). But its short time-span excuses it from the need to deal with larger processes, and in spite of Hale's attempt to write "majority" history, much of his detail is drawn&mdashinevitably&mdashfrom "minority" sources.

15. This issue is muddied by the ambiguity of the term "science." For a useful discussion of its somewhat different meanings in French and English usage, see J. H. Hexter, "Fernand Braudel and the Monde Braudellien", Journal of Modern History, 44 (1972): 500.

16. Le Roy Ladurie, "L'histoire immobile," Annales: Economies, societes, civilisations, 29 (1974): 673-82, translated by John Day as "Motionless History," Social Science History, 1 (1977): 115-36.Clyde Griffen kindly called this article to my attention.

17. Le Roy Ladurie, "Motionless History," 133-34.

18. For a notable critique, see Hexter, "Fernand Braudel and the Monde Braudellien," 480-539. Also see, for a criticism of the neglect of process in much of the new social history, Eugene and Elizabeth Fox Genovese, "The Political Crisis of Social History: A Marxian Perspective," Journal of Social History, 10 (1976): 215. As Robert M. Berdahl points out, many non-Marxists can agree with this see his "Anthropology and History: A Note and an Example," Geschichte und Gesellschaft (forthcoming).

19. Le Roy Ladurie, "Motionless History," 134.

20. The long-range significance of these tendencies of the Renaissance is still recognized, however, in some recent work. See jean Delumeau, "Le developpement de l'esprit d'organisation et de la pensee methodique dans la mentalite occidentale a 1'epoque de la Renaissance," in Thirteenth International Congress of Historical Sciences, Moscow 1970, Doklady Kongressa, 1, Pt. 5 (Moscow, 1973): 139-50 and Peter Burke, Culture and Society in Renaissance Italy, 1420-1540 (London, 1972), 225.

21. The very real danger of anachronism seems to have led Charles Trinkaus to renounce the "traditional genetic-modernist bias," i.e., the scrutiny of the past in the interest of understanding the present Trinkaus, "Humanism, Religion, Society: Concepts and Motivations of Some Recent Studies," Renaissance Quarterly, 29 (1976): 677, 685-86. Though I agree that it is subject to abuse, I see nothing illegitimate in principle in genetic explanation, and I am quite sure that its abandonment by historians would only leave it to others less sensitive to its difficulties.

22. For this complex word, see Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (New York, 1976), 176-78. For a generally instructive work on the role of myth in historiography, see Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore, 1973).

23. See Shmuel N. Eisenstadt, "Sociological Theory and an Analysis of the Dynamics of Civilizations and Revolutions," Daedalus, 106 (1977): esp. 61-63.

24. Isaiah Berlin has helped me bring these strains into focus see his Vico and Herder: Two Studies in the History of Ideas (New York, 1976).

25. See Charles Trinkaus, In Our Image and Likeness: Humanity and Divinity in Italian Humanist Thought, 1 (Chicago, 1970): 244-45. Also see, for a significant and more recent application of this myth, Donald R. Kelley, "The Metaphysics of Law: An Essay on the Very Young Marx," AHR, 83 (1978): 350.

26. For studies that reflect this concept of culture, see Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge, 1977) Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (London, 1966), Natural Symbols (London, 1970) and Implicit Meanings: Essays in Anthropology (London, 1975) Louis Dumont, From Mandeville to Marx: The Genesis and Triumph of Economic Ideology (Chicago, 1977) Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (New York, 1973) Marshall Sahlins, Culture and Practical Reason (Chicago, 1976) Victor Turner, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (Ithaca, N.Y., 1969) and, seminal for the role of language in culture, Edward Sapir, Culture, Language, and Personality: Selected Essays, ed. David G. Mandelbaum (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1949).

27. Geertz, Interpretation of Cultures, 5.

28. The historian's creation of the world of the past out of language provides a close analogy.

29. For much of this I am indebted to the theoretical essays of Harry Berger, Jr. See, in particular, his "Outline of a General Theory of Cultural Change," Clio, 2 (1972): 49-63, and "Naive Consciousness," Papers on Language and Literature, 8 (1973): 1-44.

30. See Sahlins, Culture and Practical Reason, esp. ix-x.

31. As quoted in Karl J. Weintraub, Visions of Culture: Voltaire, Guizot, Burckhardt, Lamprecht, Huizinga, Ortega y Gasset (Chicago, 1966), 138.

32. Huizinga, Men and Ideas: History, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance, trans. James S. Holmes and Hans van Marie (New York, 1959), 28. Also see Weintraub, Visions of Culture, 230-31.

33. or a general discussion of Renaissance views of language, see Karl-Otto Apel, Die Idee der Sprache in der Tradition des Humanismus von Dante bis Vico, Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte, no. 8 (Bonn, 1963). For some of the studies that have influenced my own understanding of these matters, see Michael Baxandall, Giotto and the Orators: Humanist Observers of Painting in Italy and the Discovery of Pictorial Composition, 1350-1450 (Oxford, 1971) Salvatore I. Camporeale, Lorenzo Valla: Umanesimo e teologia (Florence, 1972) Thomas M. Greene, "Petrarch and the Humanist Hermaneutic," in K. Atchity and G. Rimanelli, eds., Italian Literature: Roots and Branches (New Haven, 1976), 201-24 Gordon Leff, William of Ockham: The Metamorphosis of Scholastic Discourse (Manchester, 1975), esp. 124-237 J. G. A. Pocock, Politics, Language, and Time: Essays on Political Thought and History (New York, 1971) and Nancy S. Struever, The Language of History in the Renaissance: Rhetoric and Historical Consciousness in Florentine Humanism (Princeton, 1970). It is increasingly apparent that those self-conscious antagonists, Renaissance humanists and later Scholastics, in fact collaborated in this development.

34. For an especially useful discussion of this relationship, see Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, esp. 72-95.

35. On this radical application of the Renaissance concept of human creativity, see A. Bartlett Giamatti, "Proteus Unbound: Some Versions of the Sea God in the Renaissance," in Peter Demetz, ed., The Disciplines of Criticism (New Haven, 1968), 431-75 and Stephen J. Greenblatt, "Marlowe and Renaissance Self-Fashioning," in Alvin Kernan, ed., Two Renaissance Mythmakers: Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson (Baltimore, 1977), 41-69.

36. Hence, the condemnation of the Renaissance in Protestant neo-orthodoxy see Herbert Weisinger, "The Attack on the Renaissance in Theology Today," Studies in the Renaissance, 2 (1955): 176-89. This hostility continues to inhibit recognition of the filiation between the Reformation and the Renaissance.

Derisionist History

Avi Shlaim burst upon the scene of Middle Eastern history in 1988, with the publication of Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine . Before that, as a young lecturer at Reading University in England, he had produced two books, British Foreign Secretaries Since 1945 (1977) and The United States and the Berlin Blockade, 1948–1949 (1983), and several revealing essays on modern Middle Eastern historical issues in academic journals. But it was Collusion Across the Jordan , with its 676 pages of solid and well-written research, that thrust him into the academic limelight.

Shlaim’s book traced the thirty-year relationship between the Jewish Agency for Palestine and, later, the government of Israel and Prince Abdullah (later King) of Transjordan (later Jordan), focusing on their secret friendly ties and mutual interests--the “collusion” of the title--during the 1948 war, and their unsuccessful secret peace negotiations, which were suspended just before Abdullah’s assassination by a Palestinian gunman in July 1951. Shlaim argued that Abdullah and the leadership of the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine/Israel, were united in their fear and their hatred of Haj Amin Al Husseini, the leader of the Palestinian national movement, and also in coveting the territory of Palestine and so they agreed, in the run-up to the 1948 war, to “collude” to prevent the Palestinians from establishing a state.

Bowing to the realities of power, Shlaim contended, the Hashemite king and the Zionists agreed to divide the territory between themselves. As it turned out, and despite fierce Israeli-Jordanian clashes in and around Jerusalem, this is exactly what happened in the course of the war, the Jordanians occupying and eventually annexing the West Bank--the core of the area allotted by the United Nations partition resolution of November 1947 for a Palestinian Arab state--and the Jews establishing the state of Israel on the remainder (minus the Gaza Strip, also allotted to the Palestinians, which Egypt occupied in the course of the war and held until 1967). And following the war, the two countries embarked on peace negotiations, but failed to conclude a deal. Shlaim argues that it was an unconciliatory Israel that was largely responsible for the diplomatic failure--as it was, also, for the failure to explore properly the options for peace with Syria and Egypt that opened up, in his view, in those immediate postwar years.

Much of Shlaim’s spadework, especially relating to Zionist-Arab diplomacy before, during, and after the war, was original, but his thesis itself, about the nature of Jordanian-Israeli relations before and during 1948, was not. Israel Ber--who had served as an important officer on the General Staff of the Haganah, the Yishuv’s main pre-state militia that changed its name later to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and on the General Staff of the IDF in 1949–1950 (before his resignation, he headed its Planning and Operations Department)--had suggested the “collusion” thesis in his book Israel’s Security: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, published posthumously in 1966. And Dan Schueftan and Uri Bar-Joseph had presented and analyzed it in their learned and well-argued works, A Jordanian Option (1986) and The Best of Enemies (1987).

But Ber’s was an unannotated political essay by a discredited man--he was jailed in 1961 as a Soviet spy--and it appeared only in Hebrew. Schueftan’s work also appeared only in Hebrew, and Bar-Joseph’s drew little attention. Shlaim certainly did his work more thoroughly, and he wrote with verve and elegance. Though one or two critics suggested that Shlaim had given too much weight to oral testimony elicited decades after the events described, Collusion Across the Jordan enjoyed wide acclaim. Some of that, without a doubt, was owed to what was seen as the book’s anti-Israeli slant.

The title itself gave the game away. When two states, with whose policies and leaders one agrees, act in unison against a third party, their cooperation is usually described as an alliance or a partnership. “Collusion,” by contrast, is a pejorative term. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines “collusion” as a “fraudulent secret understanding, especially between ostensible opponents as in a lawsuit.” For many Britons (the book first appeared in England), the word raised the specter of the “imperialist collusion” between Israel, Britain, and France in their attack on Nasser’s Egypt in 1956 all three were vilified by opponents of the war as conspiring against a relatively innocent and weak Third World third party. Heeding criticism of the loaded title, Shlaim later published an abridged version of his book under the title Politics of Partition , but subsequently he expressed remorse over his momentary lapse, and stated that he should have stayed with Collusion . (He resurrects the usage in his new book when he speaks of “the Sharon-Bush collusion” against the Palestinians during the Second Intifada.)

In Collusion Across the Jordan, only one of the parties to the “collusion” was pilloried--the Yishuv and its leaders, chiefly David Ben-Gurion, chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive and, from May 14, 1948, Israel’s prime minister and defense minister. Ben-Gurion is portrayed as conniving, inflexible, and war-mongering. The other party to the “collusion,” Jordan, was let off by Shlaim with barely a slap on the wrist. Indeed, Abdullah was held up as a wise, noble, and peace-craving statesman--a portrait, incidentally, that greatly endeared Shlaim to the Hashemite princes, and did much to open doors for him in Amman for his subsequent biography of King Hussein, Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace, which appeared in 2008. (Abdullah was Hussein’s beloved grandfather.) The fact that Abdullah, in defiance of the U.N. resolution of 1947, had occupied the core area of the proposed Palestinian state, and during the following years did nothing to promote Palestinian statehood in the West Bank, and, indeed, did a great deal to stifle Palestinian nationalism, and that in 1949–1951 he had proved unable to persuade and unwilling to force his Cabinet to endorse peace or even a limited non-belligerency pact with Israel--all this was somehow exempted from the moral fervor that characterized Shlaim’s treatment of Israel.

To be sure, Shlaim’s attitude to Israel earned him prestige among his British, European, and Arab academic colleagues. So did his voluminous The Iron Wall (2000), a history of Israeli-Arab relations since 1948. In his new book, a collection of essays, in a piece called “Free Speech? Not for Critics of Israel,” Shlaim sums up that book not inaccurately: “The central theme of … The Iron Wall is that Israel throughout its history too readily resorted to military force, and has been unwilling to engage in meaningful diplomacy.”

In fact, The Iron Wall was more balanced than that. In the heat of his current pro-Palestinian righteousness, Shlaim forgets that The Iron Wall devoted many pages to the Israeli-Egyptian and Israeli-Syrian post–October War disengagement negotiations, which led to substantial Israeli troop withdrawals and to the Israeli-Egyptian negotiations and peace treaty of 1977–1979, which saw Israel evacuate every last inch of the Sinai Peninsula and to the Israel-PLO Oslo accords and the negotiations that resulted in the Israel-Jordan 1994 peace treaty. And while Ehud Barak’s (and Bill Clinton’s) efforts in 2000 to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace may not have been successful, they cannot be airily dismissed as “meaningless” diplomacy. Indeed, one can say that in the course of its sixty-year history, Israel has engaged in very meaningful diplomacy--and in diplomacy that resulted in its evacuation of huge swathes of territory (Sinai alone is three times the size of Israel) and in peace treaties with two of its Arab neighbors.

Shlaim often refers to himself as an Israeli, though Wikipedia’s designation of him as a “British historian” is more accurate: born in Baghdad in 1945 and educated as a historian in Britain, Shlaim has lived in the United Kingdom since 1966. He was one of a small group who emerged in the late 1980s and were lumped together and designated-actually by me, in an article in Tikkun , an American Jewish journal--as the “New Historians,” their collective work being the “New Historiography.” I included myself and my own work in this rubric. It countered the “Old Historiography” of the “Old Historians,” which painted a roseate portrait of Zionism and its works. The “Old Historians” generally ignored, omitted, or otherwise swept under the carpet all that was morally reprehensible and dubious and unwise in the activities of the Yishuv and Israel before and after 1948. The “New Historians,” availing themselves of Israel’s very liberal Archives Law and its newly opened archives (and also British, U.N., and American material), published a series of books in the late 1980s that were critical of the traditional Zionist historical narrative. Collusion Across the Jordan was one of those transgressive books.

Over the past decade, the New Historians--we were never a tightly knit school but were all, loosely, “of the Left”--have largely parted ways politically. Ilan Pappé, formerly of Haifa University and now of the University of Exeter Tom Segev, a journalist at Ha’aretz who does history on the side (in The Seventh Million: Israelis and the Holocaust, an important work on the Yishuv’s reaction to the Holocaust and the role of the Holocaust in post-1948 Israeli politics, and most recently in 1967, a far less impressive work) and Avi Shlaim steadily drifted leftward (if that really is the direction of people expressing understanding and sympathy for the likes of Yasser Arafat and Hamas), largely under the impact of the Second Intifada. I myself, while still believing that a two-state solution is the only just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have moved marginally rightward--and in Israel and Palestine, while mildly praising my historiographic work, Shlaim castigates me for this in an essay called “Benny Morris and the Betrayal of History.” (“Benny is in danger of becoming … ‘a genuine charlatan,’” Shlaim writes, which is a very British way of saying that I am a charlatan. Also “his post-conversion interpretation of history is old history with a vengeance . indistinguishable from the propaganda of the victors.” Shlaim fails to explain how, precisely, I have “betrayed history,” and his name-calling is motivated solely by political disagreement.)

Israel and Palestine,which will probably earn Shlaim more Israel-bashing brownie points than all his previous books combined, is a collection of academic essays and reviews, along with some journalistic articles about politics. The pieces are mostly an extended exercise in anti-Zionism, nothing more. There is also one interview, originally published in The New York Review of Books in 1999, in which Shlaim asks King Hussein about his meetings with Israeli officials and leaders from the 1960s until the 1990s, and about Jordan’s participation, or non-participation, in the wars of 1967 and 1973. The monarch’s responses are vague, fluffy, and imprecise (he often answers that he cannot remember but will later look for the relevant documents, which, of course, are never referred to again) and generally uninformative, heavily larded with avowals of goodwill and the love of peace.

The scholarly essays deal with “The Balfour Declaration and its Consequences” “The Rise and Fall of the All-Palestine Government in Gaza,” an impotent, short-lived organization established by the Egyptians in September 1948 as a means of controlling Palestinian politics, countering King Abdullah’s territorial, claims and, if one is prone to generosity, providing the Palestinians with some sort of representation and “Husni Zaim and the Plan to Resettle Palestinian Refugees in Syria.” This last essay, which was trailblazing when published in 1986, describes a peace overture by Husni Zaim, Syria’s short-lived prime minister.

Zaim ruled Syria from March 30, 1949, to August 14, 1949, when he was deposed and executed by his colleagues. Working through American and U.N. mediators, Zaim proposed peace with Israel, and also that Syria absorb a quarter of a million Palestinian refugees in exchange for Israeli cession of the eastern half of the Sea of Galilee (according to the U.N. partition resolution, the whole sea was to be within Israeli territory) and, by implication, the Israeli-owned strip of land to the east of the lake, which included Kibbutz Ein-Gev.

Israel and Syria were at the time in the middle of armistice negotiations, and Ben-Gurion suspected that Zaim’s move was a ploy to delay Syrian withdrawal from Israeli territory that it had conquered during the war, which Israel was demanding. At the same time Ben-Gurion believed that Zaim was not trustworthy. (The Syrian was apparently a CIA agent and had previously been in intermittent contact with Haganah intelligence officers.) Ben-Gurion was in any case unwilling to give up half of Israel’s major water resource, and to surrender hard-won territory in exchange for a bilateral peace agreement on which the Syrians could at any time renege. He refused to meet with Zaim until the Syrians agreed to withdraw from Israeli territory, and the Syrians rejected the Israeli proposal to negotiate at the foreign ministers level.

According to Shlaim, Zaim gave Israel “every opportunity to bury the hatchet and lay the foundations for peaceful coexistence in the long term,” but an “intransigent” Israel and a “short-sighted” Ben-Gurion “spurned” his offer and “frittered away” a “historic opportunity.” A historic opportunity? I am not so sure, and in the absence of Syrian documentation the seriousness of Zaim’s offer and his ability to carry it out remain unclear. (Itamar Rabinovich, in The Road Not Taken , highlighted Zaim’s internal problems in this respect.) Equally unclear is what would have been the fate, after Zaim’s death, of any agreement that he had signed. It is also worth asking whether a semi-arid country should give up half of its main water resource (and territory) in exchange for a peace treaty of doubtful longevity with a country that has just attacked it. Shlaim, intent on pillorying Israel, does not ask this question.

On the face of it, Shlaim’s essay on the Balfour Declaration--the British declaration of November 2, 1917, which supported the establishment of a “Jewish national home” in Palestine--appears to be a straightforward inquiry into what happened and why, based on the documents. Yet it exudes an unscholarly myopia, a selectivity in the use of documents, which hints at anti-Zionist prejudice. Why did the British issue such a seemingly uncalled-for and unrealistic declaration? After all, the Zionists, even “the Jews,” had little power in or over the British government or any other major government, and a very meager presence in Palestine itself. (In 1917 there were some 55,000 Jews and 650,000 Arabs in the country.) Indeed, the only Jew in the British government, Edwin Montagu, fiercely opposed Balfour’s declaration, and most of the world’s Jews were non-Zionists or anti-Zionists. All knew it would alienate tens of millions of Arabs and perhaps many Muslims besides.

So why did Britain issue the declaration? Shlaim devotes several pages to reviewing the prevailing explanations. Leonard Stein, in his classic study The Balfour Declaration, suggested that it was due to “the activity and skill [as a persuader]” of Zionist lobbyist and leader Chaim Weizmann. The historian Mayir Verete offered a contrary thesis: that the British government was motivated by “British imperial interests in the Middle East”--that is, safeguarding the Suez Canal from the east and keeping France out of Palestine. As an afterthought Shlaim adds that the British may have hoped to “enlist the support of the Jews of America and Russia” for the anti-German war effort, or to pre-empt a similar declaration by the German government. Again, imperial British wartime interests.

Shlaim then gives pride of place to Tom Segev’s explanation in his book One Palestine, Complete--“a [historiographic] step forward,” Shlaim calls it. According to Shlaim, quoting Segev, David Lloyd George, Britain’s prime minister in 1917, pushed the declaration out of “ignorance and prejudice.” Lloyd George “despised the Jews, but he also feared them,” believing in their world-embracing “power and influence.” The people who sired the document “believed the Jews controlled the world,” says Shlaim, quoting Segev. Which is to say, the Balfour Declaration was primarily a product of anti-Semitism. Historians love paradoxes, even fictitious ones.

Shlaim fails completely to mention the relevance of philo-Semitism and philo-Zionism as a decisive factor in the issuance of the declaration. Indeed, it was probably the single most potent factor in the support of the key Cabinet ministers: Lloyd George, Arthur James Balfour himself, Lord Milner, Robert Cecil, and Jan Smuts. Brought up on the Bible and on a belief in the Jews’ contribution to Judeo-Christian civilization, these potentates believed that Christendom owed the Jews a debt--and that it must atone for two thousand years of persecution by restoring them to their land. As Balfour told the House of Lords in 1922:

It is in order that we may send a message to every land where the Jewish race has been scattered, a message that will tell them that Christendom is not oblivious of their faith, is not unmindful of the service they have rendered to the great religions of the world, and most of all to the religion that the majority of Your Lordships’ house profess, and that we desire to the best of our ability to give them that opportunity of developing . those great gifts which hitherto they have been compelled to bring to fruition in countries that know not their language and belong not to their race? This is the ideal which I desire to see accomplished, that is the aim that lay at the root of the policy I am trying to defend and though it be defensible indeed on every ground [he means imperial interests, and so on], that is the ground which chiefly moves me.

Shlaim would have it that Balfour, George, Milner, Smuts, and Cecil were all liars or dissemblers. I prefer to believe them. It was mainly their esteem and their sympathy for the Jews that drove them into supporting the harebrained scheme known as Zionism. No doubt material wartime interests and postwar imperial calculations also played a part. Yet Shlaim cannot resist an opportunity to assert his high ethical credentials, his anti-Zionism and anti-imperialism at once, two birds with one stone: “Britain had no moral right to promise a national home for a tiny Jewish minority”--why “tiny”? The Zionists expected millions to pour into the country, as in fact they did--“in a predominantly Arab country. It did so not for altruistic reasons but for selfish and misguided ones.”

Shlaim once said that he believes historians should not merely describe and analyze but also act as “judge and jury” (or was it “judge, jury, and executioner”?)--that it is their responsibility to pass moral judgment on the actions (and the thinking?) of their protagonists. He has a powerful confidence in his own “moral compass.” He once wrote that I had lost mine. I do not believe that historians should moralize in their historiography: it is a sign of hubris, and it is tedious. My belief is that historians should seek truth, not “justice,” and describe and analyze events, using as wide a range of sources as possible to try and work out why people acted as they did and what were the consequences--and then let the reader judge, using his or her own “moral compass,” whether the protagonists were right or wrong, wise or unwise.

Shlaim concludes his essay on the Balfour Declaration with the flat personal assertion that “I can only agree with Sir John Chancellor [British high commissioner to Palestine, 1928–1931] that the Balfour Declaration was a colossal blunder--it has proved to be a catastrophe for the Palestinians and it gave rise to one of the most intense, bitter, and protracted conflicts in modern times.” But of course it was not the declaration but Zionism itself--the successive waves of Jewish immigration to Palestine, and the creation of Jewish social and political and economic institutions there, with the aim of recreating a sovereign Jewish state--that gave rise to the conflict.

What does all this tell us about Shlaim’s views? Well, he sets out his credo in the introduction to Israel and Palestine , where he tells us that “The Jews are a people and, like any other people, they have a natural right to national self-determination. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the moral case for a Jewish state became unassailable…. This was the background to the U.N. resolution of 29 November 1947 … an international charter of legitimacy for the Jewish state…. Arabs … felt that the gift of Palestine to the Jews was illegal. However, a resolution passed by the UN General Assembly by a large majority cannot be illegal. It may be unjust but not illegal.” Subsequently, Israel and the Arab states agreed in armistice negotiations and accords on Israel’s borders. “These are the only borders,” Shlaim writes, “that I regard as legitimate.” So, he concludes, “I believe the creation of the State of Israel involved a terrible injustice to the Palestinians…. I fully accept the legitimacy of the State of Israel within its pre-1967 borders.”

In 1967, Israel conquered the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, Sinai, and the Gaza Strip. In November of that year, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 242. The resolution, Shlaim informs us, stressed “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war, and the resolution … called on Israel to give up the territories it had captured in return for peace.” Actually, the resolution, in its definitive English version, spoke of giving up not “the territories” but “territories,” as Shlaim notes elsewhere in his book. “But,” he continues, “Israel preferred land to peace.” Actually, it has been a mixed bag--as Shlaim well knows. Israel gave up the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for peace with Egypt, and hundreds of square kilometers of territory in exchange for peace with Jordan, and on June 19, 1967 (and, again, in 1994–2000) offered to give up the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria. It has also given up the Gaza Strip without getting any peace in return. In the case of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, matters have been more complicated and Israel has been less “giving.” But historically speaking, the bald claim that “Israel preferred land to peace” is something less than a half-truth.

About more recent times, Shlaim has this to say: “I reject, and reject utterly, completely and uncompromisingly, the Zionist colonial project beyond [the pre-1967 borders].” And also this: “Ilan Pappé and I [following the Second Intifada] . held on to our belief that Israel bears the primary responsibility for both the persistence and the escalation of the conflict” This is a persistent nonsense. Far fewer Israelis or Palestinians have died in the major bouts of violence of the past three decades than, say, in 1948, or 1973 and of course both peoples suffered far more in 1948. The recent Israeli-Palestinian bouts of violence, the First Intifada (roughly 1987–1991) and the Second Intifada (roughly 2000–2004), have been more prolonged than the previous wars, but far less bloody and exacting. And as for the wider Israeli-Arab conflict, the region has seen, strategically speaking, a substantial de-escalation, with two Arab states making peace with Israel during the past three decades. There were wars between Israel and Arab states in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982, but none since then. And the recent bouts of violence between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006 and Israel and Hamas in Gaza in 2008–2009 were extended campaigns between a state and terrorist organizations, not “wars.”

As for the future, Shlaim writes: “The only fair and reasonable solution is the partition of Palestine … a two-state solution.” Presumably he means a Jewish state called Israel in the pre-1967 borders and a Palestinian Arab state composed of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. He does not tell us whether he is amenable to minor border changes between the two states to allow, say, for the incorporation in Israel of Jewish settlement blocs along the Green Line (the pre-1967 demarcation line between Israel and the West Bank) or, for that matter, of border-hugging Israeli Arab settlements in a Palestinian state.

All in all, there is much to be said for Shlaim’s credo. The problem with Israel and Palestine is the dissonance, which is sometimes very jarring, between these lofty professions of faith and Shlaim’s assertions (and their tone) about the very recent history of the conflict, which are not just critical of Israel’s post-1967 expansionism, but also unrestrainedly anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli. On page 307, for example, he tells us that the establishment of Israel “involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians,” and goes on to quote a leading British Foreign Office anti-Semite, John Troutbeck, in 1948, to the effect that the Americans were responsible “for the creation of a gangster state headed by ‘an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders’.” Shlaim comments: “I used to think this judgement was too harsh,” but then Israel’s “vicious” assault on Gaza in December 2008–January 2009 “reopened the question.” His logic here is faulty: either Israel’s leaders in 1948 were “unscrupulous” and Israel was, at its inception, a “gangster state,” or it was not. These have nothing to do with how Israel behaved, or allegedly behaved, sixty years later. But more alarming than Shlaim’s lapse of logic is the content of his assertion, which seems to involve a renunciation of the credo that I have just outlined. “Legitimate” and “gangster state” have some difficulty in co-existing.

Palestinian political aspirations, then and now, were “just,” according to Shlaim. He never applies the word to Zionist aspirations, before 1948 or after. Was Israel’s establishment “just,” and is its continued existence “just,” in light of the monumental “injustice” that it caused the Palestinians? Should the Jews never have established their state in Palestine? Shlaim implicitly leaves on the table the standard Palestinian argument that the Palestinians have had to pay for an injustice committed against the Jews by others. Nowhere in this book does Shlaim say a word about the Jewish people’s three-thousand-year-old connection to the Land of Israel--that this land was the Jewish people’s cradle that they subsequently ruled it, on and off, for over a thousand years and that for the next two millennia, after going into exile, they aspired and longed for repatriation. Nor does he mention that the Arabs, who had no connection to Palestine, in the seventh century conquered the land “unjustly” from the Byzantine Empire and “illegally” settled in it, forcibly converting it into an “Arab” land. If conquest does not grant rightful claim, then surely this should be true universally?

Nowhere does Shlaim tell us of the persecution, oppression, and occasional mass murder of Jews by Muslim Arabs over the centuries, starting with Muhammad’s destruction of the Jewish communities in Hijaz and ending with the pogroms in Aden and Morocco in 1947–1948. And nowhere does Shlaim point out that the Palestinian Arabs had an indirect hand in causing the death of European Jewry during the Holocaust, by driving the British, through anti-British and anti-Zionist violence, to shut the gates of Palestine, which was the only possible safe haven, after the United States and the Anglo-Saxon world had shut their gates to escaping European Jews. And, more directly, Palestinian (and other Arab) leaders contributed to the Holocaust by politically supporting Hitler and, in the case of Haj Amin al Husseini, actually working in Berlin for the Third Reich, peddling Nazi propaganda to the Arab world and raising troops for the Wehrmacht.

Most scholars try to be thoughtful, moderate, and balanced when putting their thoughts into print, even if they are more truculent and extreme in their speech. Shlaim is the opposite. On stage, he is all sweet reasonableness, sensitive and fair-minded, in the manner of an Oxonian gentleman but in print he is harsh, unbalanced, immoderate, and occasionally wild. He calls the young Yitzhak Rabin a “predator.” Ariel Sharon is variously described as a “bully” and “merciless,” his career marked by “the most savage brutality.” Shlaim even speaks of Sharon’s “attempts to destroy the Palestinian people.” In 2002, at the height of the Second Intifada, when Sharon was prime minister, he “waged a savage war against [the Palestinian] people which included … the bombardment of refugee camps . attacks on medical facilities … and summary executions.”

To be sure, in the Second Intifada there was quite a bit of “savagery”--but most of it was Palestinian. I know that terrorism is the inevitable--and for Shlaim and his ilk, the “understandable”--weapon of the weak. But the massive terrorism of the Palestinians, religious and so-called secular (both Hamas and Fatah suicide bombers believed that they were headed for heaven), truly merited the designation “savage” and it was the series of suicide bombings that culminated in the Passover bombing at the Park Hotel in Netanya, with thirty-five dead and dozens of severely wounded, that triggered the IDF reoccupation of the Palestinian cities, which was actually conducted with great care for the lives of civilians. Though the Palestinians shouted “massacre” at every turn, as they have done for more than sixty years whenever Israel retaliates following their own acts of savagery, there was almost no deliberate killing of civilians by Israel in the four-year-long Second Intifada (whereas most of Israel’s 1,300 or so dead were deliberately targeted civilians). Of the four thousand Arabs killed, less than one-third were civilians. This is not nothing, but it is not quite what Shlaim says it is.

The Israeli Air Force did not, as Shlaim states, “bomb refugee camps.” Had it done so, there would have been hundreds or thousands of dead after each mission, but this was not the case. The IAF bombed specific targets in refugee camps (and outside them)--terrorist headquarters, the homes of terrorist leaders, military bunkers, and so on. There certainly were casualties--but this was inevitable, given that the Palestinians, in 2002 as today, placed their arsenals, their command posts, and their hideaways inside and on the peripheries of refugee camps. During the Israeli assault on Hamas in Gaza at the end of 2008, the Hamas leaders sat out the campaign in the basement of Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, gambling-correctly--that Israel would not bomb or storm a hospital.

And is Shlaim fair in his description of Sharon’s career? Take the phrase “the most savage brutality.” Presumably he is referring to the young Sharon who, in October 1953, led the infamous IDF attack on the West Bank village of Kibya, in which about sixty villagers were killed (in retaliation for a terrorist grenade attack at the nearby Israeli settlement of Yehud, in which a mother and her two children were murdered). If Kibya may be described as “the most savage brutality,” then what words are left to describe, say, Iraq’s gassing of thousands of Kurds in the 1980s, or the Sudanese Arabs’ mass murder of Darfurians and Christians, or Syria’s slaughter of twenty thousand or so Muslims in its own city of Hama in 1982? Were Sharon’s various campaigns, including the assault on the PLO in Lebanon and the reoccupation of the West Bank’s cities in 2002, after a string of suicide bombings claimed hundreds of Israeli lives in Tel Aviv, Netanya, Haifa, and Jerusalem, really “attempts to destroy the Palestinian people”--as, say, Turkey’s slaughter of the Armenians in World War I or Hitler’s murder of the Jews in World War II, were “attempts to destroy” peoples? Orwell would have charged Shlaim with abusing the English language, and noted, too, that Shlaim’s careless and inflammatory hyperbole is always directed against only one party.

When it comes to the Arabs, Shlaim is often mealy-mouthed, hesitant, disingenuous, and laudatory. Thus he tells us at one point that “the Palestinian people succeeded in building the only genuine democracy in the Arab world with the possible exception of Lebanon and Morocco.” I am sure that the imprisoned opponents of the absolutist monarchy in Rabat would be much amused--as would various Shiites, Greek Catholics, and Sunni Muslims in Lebanon. So would the Fatah prisoners tortured in Hamas jails in Gaza, and the Hamas prisoners tortured in Fatah jails in the West Bank. Does a single relatively open and successful general election transform a polity into a democracy?

One-sidedness and plain unfairness permeate almost every subject touched and every argument propounded in Israel and Palestine, perverting and distorting history. Take Shlaim on the post–Second Intifada Sharon. In 2005, breaking away from the Likud, Sharon uprooted all Israeli settlements in, and withdrew from, the Gaza Strip, and indicated that he intended a similar unilateral withdrawal--as he believed there was no peace partner on the other side with whom he could reach agreement--from the bulk of the West Bank. The evacuation from Gaza should have cheered Shlaim, who supports Israeli withdrawal from the territories. Instead he divines a nefarious plot, hatched with George W. Bush’s complicity. “The real purpose behind the plan,” Shlaim writes, “was to sweep away the remnants of Oslo, to undermine the position of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, and to derail the road map [for a two-state solution]…. The plan is a pitch for politicide.” Presumably, if and when Israel pulls out of the bulk of the West Bank--again unilaterally, as there is still no credible Palestinian partner for peace--Shlaim will continue to inveigh against Israeli plots and Israeli-American conspiracies.

Sharon, who a few months after the Gaza pullout had a massive stroke and departed the political arena, never made clear how much of the West Bank he intended to evacuate. He was the driving spirit behind the construction of the security barrier separating the territory from pre-1967 Israel. The barrier probably indicated the lines to which Sharon intended to withdraw, though the initial motivation for building the barrier was to keep out suicide bombers, and in this purpose it was highly successful. The barrier--more than 90 percent of it is a fence, though Shlaim refers to it, in line with common Arab and Western usage, as “the wall”--incorporates (or will do so, when it is finished) about 7 percent of the West Bank into Israel. This 7 percent includes the large border-hugging settlement blocs that Israel intends to keep, and that both President Clinton and President Bush agreed should be ceded to Israel, with Israel compensating the Palestinians with land elsewhere. In Shlaim’s account, however, the “wall will gobble up by the time it is completed … 15 to 25 percent” of the West Bank--an exaggeration by 200 to 300 percent--and, alongside the Barak-Clinton peace plan (or “parameters”) of July and December 2000, will slice up the West Bank into several “bantustans,” preventing a contiguous Palestinian state.

Of course, a Palestinian state, if it ever emerges, will never be contiguous, inasmuch as the West Bank and Gaza Strip are separated by Israeli territory but neither the barrier nor the Barak-Clinton proposals would have violated the contiguity of the West Bank (see the relevant map at the start of Dennis Ross’s The Missing Peace). Shlaim also charges that the barrier creates “an environmental catastrophe.” This, too, is hysterical nonsense. It is true that the barrier separates several thousand villagers from their fields and workplaces, making their lives difficult and requiring complicated improvisatory solutions. But bombs exploding in downtown Tel Aviv and Haifa--as happened almost daily at the height of the Second Intifada, which is what drove the construction of the barrier--also creates “difficulties.” These “difficulties” never exercise Shlaim and his “moral compass.”

Shlaim fails in this volume to properly describe what was without doubt a historic turning point in the conflict: the Barak-Arafat-Clinton negotiations in Camp David in July 2000, and the subsequent “Clinton Parameters” of December 2000. He fails to inform his readers even of what it was that the Palestinians were offered. Instead he declares that “the most fundamental cause of the failure … lies not in Arafat’s psychological makeup but in Barak’s package.” He singles out Barak’s demand that the Palestinians agree that the offered package would be final--that is, agree to an “end of conflict” and an “end of claims.” “This remorseless insistence on finality,” Shlaim explains, “was in fact part of the problem, not the solution,” as if most peace treaties include a loophole that one of the parties may resume hostilities after signing the treaty if all its demands are not met.

The Barak offer--a Palestinian state on 100 percent of the Gaza Strip and 91 percent of the West Bank--“was a reasonable basis,” Shlaim says, “for an interim agreement, not for the final end of the conflict.” Is Shlaim hinting here that he supports such Palestinian demands as the full repatriation of the five million refugees to the territory of pre-1967 Israel, the “right of return” espoused by the PLO and Hamas (and all the Arab states)? He doesn’t tell us. Nor, indeed, does he tell his readers that Clinton, in his “Parameters,” substantially upped the ante by awarding the Palestinians 95 percent of the West Bank, and sovereignty over half of Jerusalem and the surface area of the Temple Mount--and that the Palestinians again responded with a flat “no.” Again, bizarrely, Shlaim speaks of an Israeli-American “conspiracy” to “corner” the lamb-like Palestinians, which they rightly defied.

Nowhere in this volume is Shlaim more scathing than in his criticism of Israel’s retaliatory assault on Hamas in Gaza in December 2008–January 2009. “Merciless,” “unremitting brutality,” “totally disproportionate,” “indiscriminate”: these are some of the phrases he uses. He concludes his book by asserting that Israel has “become a rogue state with ‘an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders’ … In Gaza it went too far: It sowed the wind and it will surely reap the whirlwind.” Is he referring to a possible Iranian nuclear attack on Israel? Is he justifying it in advance?

At one point Shlaim concedes that “Hamas is not an entirely innocent party in this conflict.” But he quickly buries this observation under his own display of the basic inability of many Western liberals to come to grips with the phenomenon that they are confronting: true believers with a fundamentalist ideology. Shlaim says that it is wrong to portray the Hamas as “just a bunch of religious fanatics. The simple truth is that the Palestinian people are a normal people with normal aspirations. They are no better but they are no worse than any other national group.”

But the Hamas leaders daily repeat the slogan, from their Charter or Constitution of 1988, that “Israel will exist until … Islam will obliterate it.” Does that sound like a “normal aspiration”? Do most people around the world speak this way about their neighbors? What does this, or the mass festivities in the streets of Nablus and Gaza when a suicide bomber successfully exploded in a bus in Tel Aviv, tell us about the Palestinians, who voted Hamas into power in free elections in 2006? Shlaim blithely informs his readers that “like other radical movements, Hamas began to moderate its political program following its rise to power.” He acknowledges “the ideological rejectionism” of Hamas’s charter, but he declares confidently that Hamas has begun “to move towards pragmatic accommodation of a two-state solution. Its spokesmen said many times that they would accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and offered a long-term truce on that basis.”

Shlaim hears what he wants to hear, not what is actually said. The “moderate” Hamas leader Ismail Haniya almost daily repeats that Hamas will never recognize Israel, and less frequently says that it will continue the struggle until all of Palestine reverts to Palestinian Muslim rule. Hamas “extremists” such as Khalid Mashal speak even more firmly about Israel’s eventual demise and its replacement with a Muslim polity governed in line with sharia law. Indeed, sharia has been gradually imposed, without much fanfare, in the Gaza Strip since Hamas gained dominion there--no mixing of the sexes in public, harsh dress codes, no alcohol, no cinemas, no Internet cafes, and, gradually, no Christians (a few have been murdered, most have left).

True, Hamas’s leaders over the past few years have sometimes spoken about a prolonged truce--if Israel first agrees to withdraw to the 1967 borders and accepts the “right of return” of the refugees. Is this tantamount to accepting a two-state solution? Of course not. And we are talking tactics, not strategy. Hamas, despite massive pressure by the Palestinian Authority, Israel, and the United States, has been firm in resisting changes in its political goals, which are the destruction of Israel and the imposition of sharia law. When Hamas leaders amend the Charter in accordance with Shlaim’s irenic fantasies, I will start to believe that it is changing but not a moment before.

About Israel’s restrictions on the flow of goods into the Gaza Strip since the Hamas takeover, Shlaim observes that “the aim was to starve the people of Gaza into submission” and resulted in “a humanitarian catastrophe.” This is simply wild. Darfur is a humanitarian catastrophe. Somalia at times has been a humanitarian catastrophe. But Gaza? As far as I know, no Gazan has died of thirst or starvation. There are no African-style bloated bellies there. It is true that Israel has barred the importation of iron and steel and other materials needed for reconstructing houses destroyed or damaged in the December 2008–January 2009 campaign (and, in my view mistakenly, also barred the entry into Gaza of various other goods). But Israel argues, with solid logic, that Hamas would immediately use these materials to rebuild bunkers, munitions storage facilities, trenchworks, and the other institutions and instruments of its aggression.

Without a doubt, history has ill-served the Palestinians. They became a separate and distinct “people” (while remaining part of the greater Arab “people”) as a result of the Zionist enterprise and the Zionist challenge, and Zionism has caused them repeated bouts of suffering. Their persistent rejection of compromise, as expressed by their successive leaders, has had a major role in the perpetuation of this suffering. And this suffering appears to fuel Shlaim’s animosity toward Israel. But there is a mystery here. Many intellectuals, in Israel as in the West, have been moved by the Palestinians’ history and their plight, but at the same time they have remained sympathetic to Israel’s predicament, and admiring of its real and in some ways incomparable achievements over the past six decades. In Israel and Palestine , by contrast, there is no sign of any such complex sympathy. For Shlaim, Israel and its leaders can do no right. It all begins to seem very personal. What is the source of this bias and this resentment? It is always hazardous to speculate on the motives of writers and scholars. Perhaps one day Shlaim will enlighten us on this score.

Benny Morris is a professor of Middle Eastern history at Ben-Gurion University and the author, most recently, of 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War (Yale University Press).

1 Hughes-Warrington , Marnie , ‘ Writing world history ’, in Christian , David ed., The Cambridge world history , vol. 1 , Cambridge : Cambridge University Press , 2015 , p. 41 .CrossRefGoogle Scholar

2 See the debate between Drayton , Richard , Motadel , David , Adelman , Jeremy , and Bell , Daniel : ‘ Discussion: the futures of global history ’, Journal of Global History , 13 , 1 , 2018 , pp. 1 – 21 .CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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5 O’Brien , Patrick , ‘ Historiographical traditions and modern imperatives for the restoration of global history ’, Journal of Global History 1 , 1 , 2006 , pp. 3 – 39 CrossRefGoogle Scholar . The article is an enlarged version of his opening speech in the section ‘Perspectives on global history: concepts and methodologies’ at the International Historical Congress in Oslo in 2000, which foregrounded global history as a major theme in the discipline. The second part of the section was opened by Jerry Bentley, one of the founders of the World History Association and the founder and long-time editor of the Journal of World History: see Proceedings: reports, abstracts and round table introductions, 19th International Congress of Historical Sciences, Oslo: University of Oslo, 2000.

6 Osterhammel , Jürgen , ‘ World history ’, in Schneider , Axel and Woolf , Daniel , eds., Oxford history of historical writing , vol. 5 , Oxford : Oxford University Press , 2011 , p. 93 .Google Scholar

7 Jerry H. Bentley, ‘The task of world history’, in Schneider and Woolf, Oxford handbook of world history, p. 2 Sachsenmaier , Dominic , ‘ The evolution of world histories ’, in Christian , David ed., The Cambridge world history , vol. 1 , Cambridge : Cambridge University Press , 2015 , pp. 73 ff.Google Scholar

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12 In a similar way, Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel’s contribution in this issue underlines broader sociological and institutional contexts for the global turn in art history and shows a century-long trajectory. See Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel, ‘Art history and the global: deconstructing the latest canonical narrative’.

13 See Osterhammel, ‘World history’, pp. 93–112, for a detailed discussion of the recurrent phases of self-reflection and conceptual renewal. See also Middell , Matthias and Naumann , Katja , ‘ The writing of world history in Europe from the middle of the nineteenth century to the present: conceptual renewal and challenge to national histories ’, in Middell , Matthias and Aulinas , L. Roura y , eds., Transnational challenges to national history writing in Europe , Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan , 2013 , pp. 54 – 139 .Google Scholar

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19 Middell , Matthias and Naumann , Katja , ‘ Historians and international organization(s): the International Committee of Historical Sciences (CISH) ’, in Laqua , Daniel , Verbruggen , Christophe , and Acker , Wouter Van , eds., International organizations and global civil society: histories of the Union of International Associations , London : Bloomsbury 2019 , pp. 133 –51.Google Scholar

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22 Bender , Thomas , Katz , Philip. M. , Palmer , Colin , and the Committee on Graduate Education of the American Historical Association , The education of historians for the twenty-first century , Urbana, IL : University of Illinois Press , 2004 , p. 7 Google Scholar Kuehl , Warren F. , Dissertations in history: an index to dissertations completed in history departments of the US and Canadian universities, 1873–1960 , Lexington, KY : University of Kentucky Press , 1965 Google Scholar .

23 Harvard University Archives, Cambridge, MA, UA V. 454.172, Report of the Committee on Placement, p. 18.

24 In this section, I draw on my analysis of the course catalogues and staff lists of the history departments of Chicago, Columbia, and Harvard from 1918 to 1968 and on the theses completed during this period: Naumann, Laboratorien der Globalisierung, pp. 201–363.

25 Goody , Basingstoke , ‘ What does anthropology contribute to world history? ’, in Christian , David , ed., Cambridge world history , vol. 1 , pp. 261 –76Google Scholar .

26 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library (henceforth SCRC, UC), President’s Papers 1920–80 (henceforth PP 1920–80), Box 14, Fd 1, ‘The study of civilization: objectives and relations to the division of the social sciences and the university generally’ SCRC, UC, Committee on Social Thought Papers (henceforth CST), Box 1, Fd CST I, Founding of, ‘History of the Committee on Social Thought’, undated.

27 SCRC, UC, PP 1920–1980, Box 14, Fd 1, John U. Nef to Executive Committee, 9 March 1944. For today’s debates see Go , Julian and Lawson , George , eds., Global historical sociology , Cambridge : Cambridge University Press , 2017 CrossRefGoogle Scholar . On the global turn in sociology, see Romain Lecler in this issue, ‘What makes globalization really new? Sociological views on our current globalization’.

28 SCRC, UC, CST, Box 1, Fd correspondence (study of civilization), 1941–42, Robert Redfield to Nef, Hutchins, and Knight, 17 August 1942 SCRC, UC, PP, Addenda, 1910–66, Box 4, Fd 9, Harley F. MacNair to Nef, 13 June 1942.

29 SCRC, UC, Robert Redfield Papers, Box 35, Fd 2, Fay-Cooper Cole to Tyler, 10 February 1945 Wilcox , Clifford , Robert Redfield and the development of American anthropology , Lanham, MD : Lexington Books , 2004 , pp. 114ff Google Scholar .

30 SCRC, UC, PP 1950–55, Box 1, Fd. 1, Thorkild Jacobsen, preliminary outline of a proposed institute of cultures, 9 May 1949.

31 SCRC, UC, Robert Redfield Papers, Box 5, Fd 10, Hutchins to Dollard (Carnegie Corporation), 23 November 1949 Hutchins to Chester Barnard (Rockefeller Foundation), 1 December 1949.

32 SCRC, UC, Robert Redfield Papers, Ford Foundation Cultural Studies (henceforth FFCS), Box 5, Fd 10, Redfield to Hutchins, 16 January 1953 Hoffmann to Redfield, 1 August 1951 Ford Foundation to Redfield, 21 April 1952 Gaither to Redfield, 30 April 1953.

33 Stocking , George W. , Anthropology at Chicago: tradition, discipline, department , Chicago, IL : Regenstein Library, University of Chicago , 1979 Google Scholar Stocking , George W. , The ethnographer’s magic and other essays in the history of anthropology , Madison, WI : University of Wisconsin Press , 1992 , pp. 276 – 341 Google Scholar Cohn , Bernhard S. , An anthropologist among the historians , Oxford : Oxford University Press , 1987 Google Scholar .

34 SCRC, UC, Robert Redfield Papers, FFCS, Box 3, Fd 3, ‘Comparative studies of culture and civilization: a new monograph series’, 22 July 1953 ‘Monograph series’, April 1955.

35 Ford Foundation Archive, New York (henceforth FF), Grant File 57–L150, Harris to Sutton, 16 October 1956.

36 SCRC, UC, Robert Redfield Papers, FFCS, Box 3, Fd 6, Singer to Redfield, 13 July 1953 Box 8, Fd 1, Hodgson to Lewis, 14 July 1954. SCRC, UC, Marshall Hodgson Papers (henceforth Hodgson Papers), Box 12, Fd Interrelations-Seminar, ‘Development and interrelations of the Eurasian civilization’ outline, Autumn 1957.

37 Hodgson , Marshall , ‘ The objectivity of large-scale historical inquiry ’, in Burke , Edmund , ed., Rethinking world history: essays on Europe, Islam and world history , Cambridge : Cambridge University Press , 1993 , pp. 255ff and 278 CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

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40 McNeill , William , ‘ The rise of the West after twenty-five years ’, Journal of World History , 1 , 1 , 1990 , pp. 1 – 21 Google Scholar .

41 SCRC, UC, Dean of the College Records, Box 8, Fd 8, Announcement of the three new non-Western civilization courses, 28 March 1956 see also description of the courses by Weiner , Myron , Creel , Herrlee G. , and Hodgson , Marshall respectively, Journal of General Education 12 , 1 , 1959 , pp. 24 –8, 29–38, and 39–49Google Scholar .

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43 UC, CC, III. A. Grant Files, Box 753, Fd Northwestern University, ‘New courses in world history’, handwritten notice on a conversation between Frederick Mosher and Leften Stavrianos, 8 June 1965 Northwestern University Archive, Evanston, IL, Stavrianos Faculty Biographical File, Leften Stavrianos, ‘Plan for new course, Department of History’ 1954–55.

44 Rockefeller Foundation Archives, Sleepy Hollow, NY, Record Group 3.1, Series 911, Box 3, Fd 18, ‘Humanities program and related foundation interest in history’, 1950–60, pp. 10, 14 Mazlish , Bruce and Buultjens , Ralp , eds., Conceptualizing global history , Boulder, CO : Westview Press , 1993 Google Scholar .

45 Křížová , Markéta , ‘ Josef Polišenský and the founding of Ibero-American studies in Czechoslovakia ’, in Naumann , Katja et al., eds., In search of other worlds: essays towards a cross-regional history of area studies , Leipzig : Leipziger Universitätsverlag , 2018 , pp. 129 –66Google Scholar .

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47 Brenner , Neil , ‘ Beyond state-centrism? Space, territoriality, and geographical scale in globalization studies ’, Theory and Society , 28 , 1999 , p. 40 CrossRefGoogle Scholar Döring , Jörg and Thielmann , Tristan , eds., Spatial turn: das Raumparadigma in den Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften , Bielefeld : Transcript Verlag , 2008 CrossRefGoogle Scholar Warf , Barney and Arias , Santa , eds., The spatial turn: interdisciplinary perspectives , London : Routledge , 2008 Google Scholar .

48 See, among others, Young , Robert J. C. , Postcolonialism: a historical introduction , Oxford : Wiley-Blackwell , 2016 CrossRefGoogle Scholar Castryck , Geert , ed., ‘ Colonialism and post-colonial studies ’, in Middell , Matthias , ed., Routledge handbook of transregional studies , London : Routledge , 2019 , pp. 91 – 146 Google Scholar Esherik , Joseph W. , Kayali , Hasan , and Young , Eric van , eds., Empire to nation: historical perspectives on the making of the modern world , Lanham, MD : Rowman & Littlefield , 2016 .Google Scholar

49 Espagne , Michel , ‘ La notion de transfert culturel ’, Revue Sciences/Lettres , 1 , 2013 , (consulted 28 October 2018)Google Scholar Werner , Michael and Zimmermann , Bénédicte , ‘ Beyond comparison: histoire croisée and the challenge of reflexivity ’, History and Theory , 45 , 2006 , pp. 30 – 50 CrossRefGoogle Scholar Revel , Jacques , Jeux d’échelles: la micro-analyse à l’expérience , Paris : Editions de l’EHESS/Gallimard/Seuil , 1996 Google Scholar Antje Dietze and Matthias Middell, ‘Methods in transregional studies: intercultural transfers’, in Middell, Routledge handbook of transregional studies, pp. 58–66.

50 One of many examples is Eve-Darian-Smith , and McCarthy , Philip C. , The global turn: theories, research designs, and the methods for global studies , Oakland, CA : University of California Press , 2017 Google Scholar .

51 Sachsenmaier , Dominic , Global perspectives on global history: theories and approaches in a connected world , Cambridge : Cambridge University Press , 2011 CrossRefGoogle Scholar Beckert , Sven and Sachsenmaier , Dominic , eds., Global history, globally: research and practice around the world , London : Bloomsbury 2018 Google Scholar . See also the chapters on African, Latin American, and Islamic approaches by Simo , David , Devés-Valdés , Eduardo , and Islamoğlu , Huri in Northrop , Douglas , ed., A companion to world history , Malden, MA : Wiley-Blackwell , 2010 , pp. 433 –77Google Scholar .

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A Deliberative Approach to Northeast Asia's Contested History*

The failure to reconcile views of the past and to address historical injustice has damaged inter-state relations in Northeast Asia. Joint committees, dialogues, and the participation of civil society have been used to address historical issues, but scholars in the disciplines of international relations and area studies have largely ignored these dialogues and deliberative forums. At the same time, there is an emergent theoretical literature on how deliberative democracy can address ethnic conflicts and historical injustice. There is a serious disconnect or distance between the theoretical literature on the resolution of conflicts via deliberation on the one hand, and empirical studies of deliberative approach in East Asia on the other. This article aims to address this shortcoming in the study of the politics of historical dispute in Northeast Asia by proposing a deliberative approach to history disputes and highlighting the achievements, limits, and dynamics of deliberation. Through mapping and comparative testing, we confirm that deliberation offers some potential for a departure from nationalist mentalities and a shift towards a consciousness of regional history in Northeast Asia. Our empirical test of the utility of the deliberative approach suggests that a new model for addressing regional disputes may be emerging.


1 A number of popular “histories” of African Americans in the war were published immediately after the armistice. For instance, see Miller , Kelly , Kelly Miller's Authentic History of the Negro in the World War ( Washington, DC , 1919 )Google Scholar Scott , Emmett J. , Scott's Official History of the American Negro in the World War ( Chicago , 1919 )Google Scholar and Sweeny , W. Allison , History of the American Negro in the Great World War: His Splendid Record in the Battle Zones of Europe ( Chicago , 1919 )Google Scholar . Until the twenty-first century, Arthur Barbeau and Florette Henri's The Unknown Soldiers, originally published in 1974, stood as the lone scholarly book on African Americans in World War I. Barbeau , Arthur E. and Henri , Florette , The Unknown Soldiers: African-American Troops in World War I ( Philadelphia , 1974 New York, 1996 )Google Scholar . Key recent scholarship includes Ellis , Mark , Race, War, and Surveillance: African Americans and the United States Government during World War I ( Bloomington, IN , 2001 )Google Scholar Kornweibel , Theodore Jr. , “Investigate Everything”: Federal Efforts to Compel Black Loyalty during World War I ( Bloomington, IN , 2002 )Google Scholar Roberts , Frank E. , The American Foreign Legion: Black Soldiers of the 93d in World War I ( Annapolis, MD , 2004 )Google Scholar Slotkin , Richard , Lost Battalions: The Great War and the Crisis of American Nationality ( New York , 2005 )Google Scholar Whalan , Mark , The Great War and the Culture of the New Negro ( Gainesville, FL , 2008 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Lentz-Smith , Adriane , Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I ( Cambridge, MA , 2009 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Nelson , Peter , A More Unbending Battle: The Harlem Hellfighters’ Struggle for Freedom in WWI and Equality at Home ( New York , 2009 )Google Scholar Williams , Chad L. , Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era ( Chapel Hill, NC , 2010 )Google Scholar Ferrell , Robert H. , Unjustly Dishonored: An African American Division in World War I ( Columbia, MO , 2011 )Google Scholar Mjagkij , Nina , Loyalty in Time of Trial: The African American Experience during World War I ( Lanham, MD , 2011 )Google Scholar Sammons , Jeffrey T. and Morrow , John H. Jr. , Harlem's Rattlers and the Great War: The Undaunted 369th Infantry Regiment and the African American Quest for Equality ( Lawrence, KS , 2014 )Google Scholar Wilson , Adam P. , African American Officers of World War I: A Vanguard of Equality in War and Beyond ( Jefferson, NC , 2015 )Google Scholar Fisher , W. Douglas and Buckley , Joann H. , African American Doctors of World War I: The Lives of 104 Volunteers ( Jefferson, NC , 2016 )Google Scholar and Royal A. Christian, Porter, Steward, Citizen: An African American's Memoir of World War I , ed. McDaniels , Pellom III ( New York , 2017 )Google Scholar . In addition to her book Doughboys, the Great War, and the Remaking of America ( Baltimore , 2006 )Google Scholar , which devotes significant attention to African American soldiers, historian Jennifer D. Keene has produced several articles and essays on the black experience in the war. For instance, see “ French and American Racial Stereotypes during the First World War ,” in National Stereotypes in Perspective: Frenchmen in America, Americans in France , ed. Chew , William ( Amsterdam , 2001 ), 261 –81Google Scholar “ Protest and Disability: A New Look at African American Soldiers during the First World War ,” in Warfare and Belligerence: Perspectives in First World War Studies , ed. Purseigle , Pierre ( Leiden, Netherlands , 2005 ), 213 –41Google Scholar “ The Memory of the Great War in the African American Community ,” in Unknown Soldiers: The American Expeditionary Forces in Memory and Remembrance , ed. Snell , Mark ( Kent, OH , 2008 ), 60 – 79 Google Scholar “ Images of Racial Pride: African American Propaganda Posters in the First World War ,” in Picture This! Reading World War I Posters , ed. James , Pearl ( Lincoln, NE , 2009 ), 207 –40Google Scholar and “ The Long Journey Home: African American World War I Veterans and Veterans’ Policies ,” in Veterans’ Policies, Veterans’ Politics: New Perspectives on Veterans in the Modern United States , ed. Ortiz , Stephen R. ( Gainesville, FL , 2012 ), 146 –70CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

2 Notable exceptions include Keene , Jennifer D. , “ W. E. B. Du Bois and the Wounded World ,” Peace and Change 26 , no. 2 (Apr. 2001 ): 135 –52CrossRefGoogle Scholar Lewis , David Levering , W. E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868–1919 ( New York , 1993 ), 561 –2Google Scholar , 572 (hereafter W. E. B. Du Bois, Vol. 1) Lewis , David Levering , W. E. B. Du Bois: The Fight of Equality and the American Century, 1919–1963 ( New York , 2000 )Google Scholar (hereafter W. E. B. Du Bois, Vol. 2) and Smith , Shane A. , “ The Crisis in the Great War: W. E. B. Du Bois and His Perception of African-American Participation in World War I ,” The Historian 70 , no. 2 (Summer 2008 ): 239 –62CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

3 For discussion of the “Close Ranks” controversy, see Ellis , Mark , “ ‘Closing Ranks’ and ‘Seeking Honors’: W. E. B. Du Bois in World War I ,” Journal of American History 79 , no. 1 (June 1992 ): 96 – 124 CrossRefGoogle Scholar Ellis , Mark , “ W. E. B. Du Bois and the Formation of Black Opinion in World War I: A Commentary on ‘The Damnable Dilemma,’ ” Journal of American History 81 , no. 4 (Mar. 1995 ): 1584 –90CrossRefGoogle Scholar Jordan , William , “ ‘The Damnable Dilemma’: African-American Accommodation and Protest during World War I ,” Journal of American History 81 , no. 4 (Mar. 1995 ): 1562 –83CrossRefGoogle Scholar Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois, Vol. 1, 552–60 Wolters , Raymond , Du Bois and His Rivals ( Columbia, MO , 2002 )Google Scholar .

4 Blight , David W. , “ W. E. B. Du Bois and the Struggle for American Historical Memory ,” in History & Memory in African-American Culture , eds. Fabre , Geneviève and O'Meally , Robert ( Oxford , 1994 ), 45 – 71 Google Scholar , here 45–9 Du Bois , W. E. B. , The Gift of Black Folk: The Negroes in the Making of America ( Boston , 1924 New York, 2009), 57Google Scholar .

5 See Gregg , Robert , “ Giant Steps: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Historical Enterprise ,” in W. E. B. Du Bois, Race, and the City: The Philadelphia Negro and Its Legacy , eds. Katz , Michael B. and Sugrue , Thomas J. ( Philadelphia , 1998 ), 77 – 99 Google Scholar Rampersad , Arnold , The Art and Imagination of W. E. B. Du Bois ( Cambridge, MA , 1976 ), 32 –5Google Scholar , 110, 228.

6 See Rampersad, The Art and Imagination of W. E. B. Du Bois Smith , Shawn Michelle , Photography on the Color Line: W. E. B. Du Bois, Race, and Visual Culture ( Durham, NC , 2004 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Kirschke , Amy Helene , Art in Crisis: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Struggle for African American Identity and Memory ( Bloomington, IN , 2007 )Google Scholar .

7 The English philosopher R. G. Collingwood offers a useful theoretical framework for understanding historical imagination in his classic book The Idea of History (Oxford, 1946). I also draw from Thomas Holt's examination of the role of historical imagination in Du Bois's 1935 landmark book Black Reconstruction. Holt argues that Du Bois's radical historical revisionism was informed by an understanding of postwar black life first developed in his early sociological and literary writings that allowed him read against the racist secondary source scholarship of his day in lieu of archival research. Holt , Thomas C. , “ ‘A Story of Ordinary Human Beings’: The Sources of Du Bois's Historical Imagination in Black Reconstruction ,” South Atlantic Quarterly 112 , no. 3 (Summer 2013 ): 419 –35CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

8 Du Bois , W. E. B. , The World and Africa: An Inquiry into the Part Which Africa Has Played in World History ( New York , 1946 New York, 1965), 80Google Scholar .

9 Du Bois , W. E. B. , The Autobiography of W. E. B. Du Bois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century ( New York , 1968 ), 148Google Scholar .

10 On the importance of Du Bois's time in Germany and its influence on his intellectual thought, see Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois, Vol. 1, ch. 6 Barkin , Kenneth D. , “ ‘Berlin Days,’ 1892–1894: W. E. B. Du Bois and German Political Economy ” boundary 2 27 , no. 3 (Fall 2000 ): 79 – 101 CrossRefGoogle Scholar Barkin , Kenneth , “ W. E. B. Du Bois’ Love Affair with Imperial Germany ,” German Studies Review 28 , no. 2 (May 2005 ): 285 – 302 Google Scholar Gooding-Williams , Robert , In the Shadow of Du Bois: Afro-Modern Political Thought in America ( Cambridge, MA , 2009 )Google Scholar Shaw , Stephanie J. , W. E. B. Du Bois and The Souls of Black Folk ( Chapel Hill, NC , 2013 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Appiah , Kwame Anthony , Lines of Descent: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Emergence of Identity ( Cambridge, MA , 2014 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

11 Schafer , Axel R. , “ W. E. B. Du Bois, German Social Thought, and the Racial Divide in American Progressivism, 1892–1909 ,” Journal of American History 88 , no. 3 (Dec. 2001 ): 925 –49CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

12 Du Bois , W. E. B. , The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the United States of America, 1638–1870 , Harvard Historical Studies, No. 1 ( New York , 1896 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

13 Du Bois , W. E. B. , The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study ( Philadelphia , 1899 )Google Scholar Morris recognizes the centrality of Du Bois's historical analysis in The Philadelphia Negro, while still asserting its place “as America's first major empirical sociological study.” Morris , Aldon D. , The Scholar Denied: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology ( Berkeley, CA , 2015 ), 45 –7Google Scholar also see Katz and Sugrue, W. E. B. Du Bois, Race, and the City Wortham , Robert A. , ed., W. E. B. Du Bois and the Sociological Imagination: A Reader, 1897–1914 ( Waco, TX , 2009 )Google Scholar .

14 Rudwick , Elliott M. , “ W. E. B. Du Bois and the Atlanta University Studies on the Negro ,” Journal of Negro Education 26 , no. 4 (Autumn 1957 ): 466 –76CrossRefGoogle Scholar Wright , Earl II , “ W. E .B. Du Bois and the Atlanta University Studies on the Negro, Revisited ,” Journal of African American Studies 9 , no. 4 (Mar. 2006 ): 3 – 17 CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

15 Du Bois , W. E. B. , “ Dusk of Dawn: An Essay Toward an Autobiography of a Race Concept ,” in W. E. B. Du Bois: Writings , ed. Huggins , Nathan ( New York , 1986 ), 602 –3Google Scholar Porter , Eric , The Problem of the Future World: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Race Concept at Midcentury ( Durham, NC , 2010 ), 26CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

16 For example, see Smith , John David , “ W. E. B. Du Bois and Ulrich Bonnell Phillips: Symbolic Antagonists of the Progressive Era ,” in Slavery, Race, and American History: Historical Conflict, Trends, and Method, 1866–1953 ( London , 1999 ), 23 – 32 Google Scholar .

17 Blight, “W. E. B. Du Bois and the Struggle for American Historical Memory.” Also see Byerman , Keith E. , Seizing the Word: History, Art, and Self in the Work of W. E. B. Du Bois ( Athens, GA , 1994 )Google Scholar .

18 Wesley , Charles H. , “ W. E. B. Du Bois—The Historian ,” Journal of Negro History 50 , no. 3 (July 1965 ): 147 –62CrossRefGoogle Scholar , here 161.

19 Katznelson , Ira , “ Du Bois's Century ,” Social Science History 23 , no. 4 (Winter 1999 ): 459 –74Google Scholar Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois, Vol. 1, 249–51 Pan-African Association. To the nations of the world, ca. 1900, W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312), Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries, (hereafter Du Bois Papers, U-Mass).

20 Du Bois , W. E. B. , John Brown ( Philadelphia , 1909 ), 230Google Scholar . Also see Balfour , Lawrie , Democracy's Reconstruction: Thinking Politically with W. E. B. Du Bois ( Oxford , 2011 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar , ch. 3.

21 Du Bois taught at Wilberforce University from 1894 to 1896 and at Atlanta University, first from 1897 to 1910, and returning again from 1934 to 1944.

22 “ World War and the Color Line ,” The Crisis 9 , no. 1 (Nov. 1914 ): 1 – 52 Google Scholar , here 28–30.

23 Du Bois , W. E. B. , “ The African Roots of War ,” Atlantic Monthly (May 1915 ): 707 –14Google Scholar Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois, Vol. 1, 503–4.

24 “ Lusitania ,” The Crisis 10 , no. 2 (June 1915 ): 53 – 104 Google Scholar , here 81.

25 “ Resolutions of the Washington Conference ,” The Crisis 14 , no. 1 (June 1917 ): 53 – 104 Google Scholar , here 59.

26 For historical perspective on African American views on war and military service, see Jimoh , A Yęmisi and Hamlin , Françoise , eds., These Truly Are the Brave: An Anthology of African American Writings on War and Citizenship ( Gainesville, FL , 2015 )Google Scholar .

27 Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois, Vol. 1, 544 Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois, Vol. 2, 2–4.

28 On surveillance of The Crisis, see Ellis, Race, War and Surveillance and Kornweibel, Jr., “Investigate Everything.”

29 Du Bois , W. E. B. , “ Awake America ,” The Crisis 14 , no. 5 (Sept. 1917 ): 209 –60Google Scholar , here 216.

30 Du Bois , W. E. B. , “ The Negro and the War Department ,” The Crisis 16 , no. 1 (May 1918 ): 1 – 52 Google Scholar , here 7–8.

31 Du Bois , W. E. B. , “ Thirteen ,” The Crisis 15 , no. 5 (Jan. 1918 ): 105 –56Google Scholar , here 114. For details and analysis of the Houston rebellion, see Haynes , Robert V. , A Night of Violence: The Houston Riot of 1917 ( Baton Rouge, LA , 1976 )Google Scholar Lentz-Smith, Freedom Struggles Steptoe , Tyina L. , Houston Bound: Culture and Color in a Jim Crow City ( Berkeley, CA , 2015 ), 31 –5Google Scholar and Williams, Torchbearers of Democracy.

32 Mark Ellis and David Levering Lewis argue, convincingly, that Du Bois wrote “Close Ranks” to alleviate concern within the Military Intelligence Division about the tone of The Crisis and induce a favorable decision regarding his application for a captaincy commission. See Ellis, “‘Closing Ranks’ and ‘Seeking Honors’” and Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois, Vol. 1, 552–560. William Jordan, in contrast, argues that “Close Ranks” and the commission were unrelated, with the editorial being consistent with Du Bois's wartime accommodationism see Jordan, “‘The Damnable Dilemma.’”

33 Du Bois , W. E. B. , “ Close Ranks ,” The Crisis 16 , no. 3 (July 1918 ): 105 –56Google Scholar , here 111.

34 “DuBois, One-Time Radical Leader, Deserts and Betrays Cause of His Race,” Richmond Planet, Aug. 3, 1918, 1 Harrison , Hubert , “ The Descent of Dr. Du Bois ,” in A Hubert Harrison Reader , ed. Perry , Jeffrey B. ( Middletown, CT , 2001 ), 170 –3Google Scholar Joseph O. Glenn to The Crisis, July 25, 1918, Du Bois Papers, U-Mass.

35 Ellis, “‘Closing Ranks’ and ‘Seeking Honors,’” 113–8 Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois, Vol. I, 559–60 Du Bois, The Autobiography of W. E. B. Du Bois, 274 “Dusk of Dawn” in W. E. B. Du Bois: Writings, 740–1.

36 Du Bois , W. E. B. , “ An Essay Toward a History of the Black Man in the Great War ,” The Crisis 18 , no. 2 (June 1919 ): 53 – 120 Google Scholar , here 63–87.

37 See Barbeau and Henri, The Unknown Soldiers Lentz-Smith, Freedom Struggles and Williams, Torchbearers of Democracy.

38 Novick , Peter , That Noble Dream: The “Objectivity Question” and the American Historical Profession ( Cambridge, MA , 1988 )CrossRefGoogle Scholar Adler , Selig , “ The War-Guilt Question and American Disillusionment, 1918–1928 ,” Journal of Modern History 23 , no. 1 (Mar. 1951 ), 1 – 28 CrossRefGoogle Scholar , here 1–2. For an example of pro-Allied historical literature, see Hart , Albert Bushnell and Lovejoy , Arthur O. , eds., Handbook of the War for Readers, Speakers and Teachers ( New York , 1918 )Google Scholar .

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