The modern historian generally recognizes that his writings
are to some degree tied to the contemporary climate of opinion, zeitgebunden as the Germans say. The common assumptions of the time are all-pervasive; for the scholar to filter all of them out of his work is impossible. In subtle ways his views about even the most remote ages are shaped by the impact of modern times. History as written is in part a reflection of the present.*
Today’s American historian probably reflects his age more completely than in any previous generation. Three major wars within a half century have razed the ivory tower; historical works produced by long years of work in undusted and secluded rooms are a rarity. The typical historian’s working place is likely to be a glass-walled carrell in a busy library with a telephone only a few steps down the corridor. The historian works at a “project,” usually financed by a foundation grant after its merit and respectability h...
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