on April 21, 2014
I review as a layman, not as a college professor or other history scholar. Glassberg is a public history professor at the University of Massachusetts. Although I've owned the book for years, probably since it was first published, I just got around to plowing through it. Why did I read it now? For my own amusement in retirement I'm writing a family history, and it struck me that Glassberg's book might help my perspective, and it did that. No doubt about it. It provided useful ways of thinking about the past that will help me in my little project. In fact, Glassberg expressly acknowledges the importance (if I read him correctly) of the peoples' histories, including folks like me thinking and writing about family histories.
That having been said, the book has clearly been written for the academic market. Glassberg seems to have taken a series of unrelated public history case studies, and linked them into a book with an opening, closing and middle chapter explaining the broader contexts. For me, these chapters were somewhat more interesting than the case studies. An example of the author's prose from the middle chapter, "Place and Placelessness in American History": "To understand the ideological aspects of place-making, we must supplement psychological and folklore studies of the subjective experience of place with a critical geographical analysis of the social production of space--how the environments in which we live have been molded by larger social, economic and political forces." It goes on pretty much like this. Get the picture?
I vacillated between three and four star ratings. Three point five would have been perfect if available.
on February 27, 2011
Glassberg's essays are thought-provoking and extremely readable, especially compared to some other works on public history and history and the public. He manages to take a variety of situations where the past meets its current keepers, and investigates them with insight and clarity. Standout chapter is "Place and Placelessness in American History."
Read it for a graduate course and was truly impressed, even alongside the other related titles.