A Momentary Digression

My father, a financial adviser and estate planner, sent me the following video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Up0kCKr07kU

Since it was amusing I thought that I’d share it with you all. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not one to harp on economic issues. I love to bitch about stuff, of course, but as a historian (la dee da) I try my hardest to see the long term picture – not the ups and downs of economic cycles, but the gross long-term economic trends of centuries of development. For instance, if you try to tell me that Bill Clinton had anything to do with the sustained economic growth during his presidency, I will heave. Don’t get me wrong – I’m no Republican (or Democrat for that matter). But I know that Clinton had nothing to do with what he and his wife love to claim he did. Larger and less comprehensible forces in the short-term provide a historical tapestry that we cannot even begin to understand or see this close to the events.

Historical work begins, I believe, the moment every person who was living at the particular moment under discussion is dead. Why? Because only then has every possible primary source been written. With no more possible primary sources to be created, the historical process can begin. Sounds weird, I know and it’s more complicated than that but there’s a place to start. When do you think that history begins? When do you think we can start writing history?

At the very least, the current economic situation provides quality fodder to create funny videos, and as historians we must remember that there are far larger forces at work moving history (no, not God) than we can imagine and this seemingly relevant and immediately pressing economic situation is just a drop in a larger ocean. So who wants to go swimming? Speaking of swimming, have everyone’s pools opened since Memorial Day is behind us? Got any good summer reading recommendations to share with me and other readers?

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Read more about the writing process and other Topical Tuesday posts.


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