Why History Matters

Why History Matters : Life and Thought

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The author of this work believes all humans are historians: "We live our lives; we tell our stories. It is as natural as breathing". She argues that this is how we define ourselves and our community, how we understand our time and place and the context of our lives. History can be the vital thread that holds a nation together, as demonstrated most strikingly with the Jewish people. Conversely, for women, who have lived in a world in which they apparently had no history, its absence can be devastating. In this work, Lerner brings together her thinking and research of 16 years, combining personal reminiscences with innovative theory illuminating the importance of history and the vital role women have played in it. The chapters are divided into three sections, each widely different from the others, each revelatory of Lerner as a woman and a feminist. This book is intended for students and scholars of women's history.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 266 pages
  • 157.48 x 238.76 x 22.86mm | 544.31g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0195046447
  • 9780195046441

Review quote

"Gerda Lerner brings us to the moral Grand Divides of history, then quietly explains where she sees humankind having been, and where, with rational unity, we might yet go.I was fascinated reading Professor Lerner's account of her own disciplined struggle not to hate Germans today for the genocide of European Jewry. She makes it very clear the process is important and on-going."--Alan Adelson, Executive Director, The Jewish Heritage Project"With her customary brilliance and clarity, Gerda Lerner offers us her own story and in the process explains how history happens, is interpreted, utilized, transmuted into meaning and memory, and denied and distorted by those with the power to do so. This book is a gift to all who hope to understand the role of the past in the present"--Letty Cottin Pogrebin"This moving collection of essays is testimony--if more were needed--to the breadth of Gerda Lerner's spirit and her humane wisdom."--Linda k. Kerber, co-editor of U.S. History as Women's History: New Feminist Essaysshow more

About Gerda Lerner

About the Author: Gerda Lerner is Robinson-Edwards Professor of History, Emerita, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.show more

Review Text

Despite its somewhat grandiose title, this isn't in any way a comprehensive approach to the vital question posed, but a collection of speeches and articles that offer only a glimpse of the author's important contributions to historical inquiry. Lerner (The Creation of Feminist Consciousness, 1993; Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison) is a fascinating woman, and some of her extraordinary experiences are revealed here in the portion of the book called "Life." An Austrian Jew, Lerner escaped from the Nazis and emigrated to America at age 18. Once here, she determined to be a writer and set about gaining a proficiency in English the likes of which few native-born Americans can boast. But Lerner didn't stop there. At the age of 40, she returned to school to get a graduate degree in history - and not conventional history, but women's history, an area of study that she helped define. In another section, called "Thought," Lerner discusses the field of women's history a little, but these essays, collected from her writings and lectures of the past few years are limited in scope and often repetitive. (For instance, we hear many times that women cannot be treated as a single, unified category because they come from all classes, races, and religions.) This is not to say that Lerner offers nothing of value. For example, her discussions of how to put women into the history curriculum without making them seem inferior to men are perceptive and thoughtful, as is her attempt to redefine race and class in terms of gender. Even here Lerner has much to offer students of history, but from a scholar of her stature, this jumble of essays is a disappointment. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

59 ratings
3.88 out of 5 stars
5 22% (13)
4 46% (27)
3 31% (18)
2 2% (1)
1 0% (0)
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