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One of these things is not the same

To judge by the plaints of educators and employers the pressing danger of the republic is inaccuracy: the school-boy does not know how to add, nor the biological assistant to dissect, nor the graduate student in history to tell a story truly. We know that the daily press has little regard for truth, because every evening paper is constantly convicting every morning rival of falsehood. Public speakers make up their anecdotes and distil wrong deductions into the minds of their hearers; the records of Congress are full of speeches that were never spoken, and omit much of the raciness of actual debate.

That’s the opening paragraph of “Imagination in History” by Albert Bushnell Hart, published in 1910. Replace “every evening newspaper” with “every news medium” and to bring this paragraph up to date we’d only have to drop the assumption that there’s actual debate in Congress.

A source of consolation or a reason to despair?

Since Hart’s article’s point is that this complaint goes back centuries when it comes to the study of history. E.g.,

  • “The Middle Ages much enjoyed fabricating the ancients.”

  • “The eighteenth century is the golden age of imaginary historians…”

  • “Of the multitude of forgeries in the nineteenth century the palm goes to the French artist in vellum, Lucas, who fairly carried on a jobbing trade in spurious letters. Among the 27,000…”

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