Channeling The Past: Politicizing History In Postwar America

Paperback | March 15, 2013

byErik Christiansen

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After the turmoil of the Great Depression and World War II, Americans looked to the nation’s more distant past for lessons to inform its uncertain future. By applying recent and emerging techniques in mass communication—including radio and television programs and commercial book clubs—American elites working in media, commerce, and government used history to confer authority on their respective messages.
    With insight and wit, Erik Christiansen uncovers in Channeling the Past the ways that powerful corporations rewrote history to strengthen the postwar corporate state, while progressives, communists, and other leftists vied to make their own versions of the past more popular. Christiansen looks closely at several notable initiatives—CBS’s flashback You Are There program; the Smithsonian Museum of American History, constructed in the late 1950s; the Cavalcade of America program sponsored by the Du Pont Company; the History Book Club; and the Freedom Train, a museum on rails that traveled the country from 1947 to 1949 exhibiting historic documents and flags, including original copies of the U.S. Constitution and the Magna Carta.
    It is often said that history is written by the victors, but Christiansen offers a more nuanced perspective: history is constantly remade to suit the objectives of those with the resources to do it. He provides dramatic evidence of sophisticated calculations that influenced both public opinion and historical memory, and shows that Americans’ relationships with the past changed as a result.

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From the Publisher

After the turmoil of the Great Depression and World War II, Americans looked to the nation’s more distant past for lessons to inform its uncertain future. By applying recent and emerging techniques in mass communication—including radio and television programs and commercial book clubs—American elites working in media, commerce, and...

Erik Christiansen is assistant professor of history and public history coordinator at Rhode Island College.

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Channeling the Past: Politicizing History in Postwar America
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Kobo ebook|Mar 1 2013

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:318 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:March 15, 2013Publisher:University Of Wisconsin PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0299289044

ISBN - 13:9780299289041

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
 
Introduction: History's Past Presence
1 The History Book Club Offers the Past as an "Image of Ourselves"
2 Mythologizing History on Du Pont's Cavalcade of America
3 History, News, and You Are There
4 The Freedom Train's Narrow Gauge Iconography
5 Building a "National Shrine" at the National Museum of American History
Conclusion: Once and Future Truths
 
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

Channeling the Past may focus mainly on corporations rewriting history to influence public opinion, but it also delves into attempts by various groups on the political left to bolster their message by invoking the past.”—Minnesota History Magazine