Gordon Wood reviews Jill Lepore’s “The Whites of Their Eyes”

The fact that many ordinary Americans continue to want to ask about the Founders evokes no sympathy or understanding whatever from Lepore…
Memory is as important to our society as the history written by academics.

This is very weird criticism coming from Gordon Wood, an academic historian at the top of his profession. I thought Lepore’s book was quite fair, and those parts of it that Wood has concrete problems with were mostly anecdotal and personal—“Hearing this person say this reminded me of this counterexample,” that sort of thing. The Whites of Their Eyes is about history, but it’s also by necessity about politics and what Lepore identifies as “historical fundamentalism”—because that’s what the Tea Party is all about. There are perhaps good reasons to leave the Tea Party movement unexamined and unprovoked, but Wood’s argument that disagreeing with misinformed people is rude? Not a good reason.

Bonus link: Gordon Wood, “In Defense of Academic History Writing,” April 2010:

If academic historians want popular narrative history that is solidly based on the monographic literature, then they will have to write it themselves.

Unless they wind up being disrespectful to the memories created by “ordinary Americans,” I guess.