Interpretations of American History
The world is full of rich culture, diversity and experiences unique to each individual. When determining the validity of historic accounts we must factor in that particular historian’s point of view, which should be characterized by ethnicity, idealogy, theoretical or methodological preference. With these factors views of the past often vary from person to person. In this essay I will be discussing the four different stages that shaped the writing of American history over the last 400 years. According to Couvares, the writing of American history has passed through four stages: the providential, the rationalist, the nationalist, and the professional. The providential stage took place during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The puritans were among those who lived during the providential stage. They were strong practitioners of religion, and believed that their ancestry was that of a divine nature. They also believed that their misfortune was God reprimanding them, and that their successes were his rewards. During the European enlightenment of the eighteenth century, educated men of the aristocracy began to shun the traditional Puritan mindset. Instead they chose to reform society and advance knowledge through scientific discovery and natural laws of the physical universe instead of the spiritual universe. Among these educated men was Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson had a rationalist mindset. He believed that men could control their own destiny, and natural law shaped society, as opposed to the spiritual view of the puritans. This view did not bode well with evangelical Protestants. In 1790 the federal party led by Washington and Adams openly opposed his views, stating that Jefferson was an “infidel, an apologist for slavery, and a lover of French revolutionary excess.” (Couvares 76-3) and in fact history had already become politicized. In the nineteenth century historians began to develop a new nationalist mindset. They...
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