The writing of history is about locating, sorting, and explicating information. There are cultural assumptions built into this process, so history can change through the decades as society changes.
A glance at the historiography of the causes of the Civil War will show this. Because historians bring their own preconceptions and cultural background to their work, each will emphasize some information differently from others. If historians did not do this, there would be little to the profession of history: Parson Weems would still be the authority on George Washington.
It is the constant re-evaluation of information that provides new insights. But, if all the information is not available, as the 1973 Nixon tapes are not (except for those few characterized by the National Archives as relating to Watergate), then it's a bit too soon to talk about establishing a canon. Perhaps the historical community should now put aside its differences as to the accuracy of the Kutler transcripts (a dying, if not dead, horse) and focus on why it has taken so long for NARA to release the tapes.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Writing about whether our understanding of Watergate, or any historical event, can be sacrosanct or nearly so, as historian David Greenberg put it recently, Fred Graboske, who supervised the initial review of the Nixon White House tapes for the National Archives, commented as follows in response to my blog entry at The New Nixon (I added two paragraph starts):