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David Kennedy

David M. Kennedy is the Donald J. McLachian Professor of History at Stanford University. His scholarship is notable for its integration of economic analysis with social history and political history.[…]

A people without a collective memory is a people without a collective identity.

Question: Why is American history important?

David Kennedy: Well Americans should care about American history the way individuals should care about their own past and their own memory. A people without a collective memory is a people without a collective identity – in our case a national identity. So it seems to be self-evident why, in our society and any society, if members of that society don’t understand how they came to be a people, and how they came to be an organic and integrated society, they really have no collective identity whatsoever. Others, I think, need to understand in this day and age – this particular historical moment – need to understand something about the character of the society because we just loom so large on the world’s horizon. And we – for better or worse – have so much influence on what happens in all corners of the globe. So it behooves others to understand us, I think, as well as they can.

 

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