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Myths of American History: Our Evolving Past


March 29, 2014

Program Locations:

Saturdays, March 29, April 5, 12        3 pm to 5 pm

The writing of history dates back to ancient Greece and has evolved over two millennia.   However, the historian as a professional occupation is a relatively modern development only beginning in the 19th century. Today the profession is still largely misunderstood by the general public who often believe that historians mine a singular, objective past made up of names, dates, and indisputable facts. 

In this course, we will take a look at how professional historians view their occupation, discuss some of the popular misunderstandings of the field, and tackle some myths and misconceptions about two great events in American History:  the Revolutionary War and World War II.  

March 29th:  What is history and who decides?  In this sessions we discuss this question and more:

  • Is there such a thing as revisionist history?
  • What does the historian do?
  • Whose history is it? Should we consider the past through such lenses as race, gender, class?
  • Do we need historians?
  • Are we the historians of our own and our family’s lives?

April 5th:  What’s so revolutionary about the Revolution?:  Myths and Misconceptions of the American Revolution.  In this second session, we will question the accuracy of historical accounts of war and debunk some of the more egregious myths of the conflict. In addition, we will take a look at some fascinating interpretations of the Revolution by modern scholars and also attempt to answer the following questions:

  • What is a revolution and does the American Revolution qualify?
  • When did the Revolution begin?
  • What role did women, Native Americans, and African Americans play?
  • Was there a clear winner?
  • What did losing the colonies mean to the British, the Native Americans, and to African slavery?

April 12th:  The Good War?: Myths and Misconceptions of World War II.  In this third session, we will take a closer look at this conflict which forever shaped the global landscape and question some of the more popular historical premises including the war’s origins, life on the homefront, America’s role in the Holocaust, popular support for the war, and more. In addition, we will take a brief look at the latest historical scholarship and attempt to answer the following questions:

  • Was America’s involvement unavoidable?
  • What role did this country play in saving European Jews?
  • What were America’s war aims?
  • What did the war mean for women on the homefront?

Professor:  Brian J. Bouton has held a lifetime passion for history as a student, a teacher, and now as an academic in training. He is currently a first-year history PhD student at the CUNY Graduate Center where he is researching eighteenth century Nantucket whalers in the wartime Atlantic world.   Prior to to his teaching and academic career, he earned a B.A. in Asian Studies (Japanese and Chinese history) from the University of Maryland’s Japanese campus. Brian also lived and taught in Japan for nearly a decade before returning home to teach history. Brian always intended to continue his Japanese history studies before the discovery of his love of maritime history as a tall ship educator off the coast of New England inspired him to become an American historian.

This course will be presented in the 3rd floor program room.

Readings will be offered in class.

Registration required:  please visit the 2nd floor desk to sign-up.  Sign up starts 10am on Saturday March 15, in person only.


More Info

  • Audience: Adults

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