Popper, Hobsbawm and the Lost Cause - 1

The debunking of the Lost Cause by Centennialists is more than a little amusing.

It's as if stolidly surveying the historiographic landscape of the last 50 years, having perceived absolutley no threat to their own pack of tall tales and folk wisdom, the Centennialists fixed irritatedly on a rival mythology - and in the name of modern social science have vowed to stamp it out.

Of couse, anyone familiar with so-called Lost Cause historiography recognizes many of its themes being generalizations from colloquial history - the story of a town, a family, of origins, of olden times. It actually takes a kind of psychosis, when confronted with Lost Cause themes, to rise up like an outraged social scientist and begin caning that innocent party who let slip some simple statement of family history or belief.

When our Southern friends tell us "They fought for their rights, not slavery," perhaps our obligation to hsitory, the social science, is to merely say, "Well, certainly your folks, but let's not say all folks." And if they still want to say all folks, that's okay too. It's not a scientific statement but a social argument.

I understand that highly paid Centennial speakers travel the circuit and are forced to confront plain folks in audiences who tell them, "That's not the way it was at all." I understand that can be annoying, since all other opposition to their views has been successfully stamped out. But it is ultimately as harmless as family history related at a reunion. Centennialists need to refocus on the new work that has been appearing over the last 50 years that puts flesh on the bones of social science and terribly undemines their own mythologies - and give the Lost Cause a rest.

You see I'm suggesting that there are two kinds of history - and the readers of this blog rooted in place know and understand that instinctively. The Blue Hole in which I swam in Winslow, NJ, was bottomless. Everyone understood that - you had only to ask. It had been created by a meteor - everyone knew that. Cars fell into it and were never recovered - someone had the newspaper clippings. The Blue Hole was part of the local history. How that info got to be history is a very interesting question, of course, as interesting as aspects of the so-called Lost Cause.

And that is a matter which professors Popper and Hobsbawm have something to say about.