David M. Kennedy is the Donald J. McLachian Professor of History at Stanford University. His scholarship is notable for its integration of economic analysis with social history and political history.[…]
A people without a collective memory is a people without a collective identity.
Question: Why is American history important?
David Kennedy: Well Americans should care about American history the way individuals should care about their own past and their own memory. A people without a collective memory is a people without a collective identity – in our case a national identity. So it seems to be self-evident why, in our society and any society, if members of that society don’t understand how they came to be a people, and how they came to be an organic and integrated society, they really have no collective identity whatsoever. Others, I think, need to understand in this day and age – this particular historical moment – need to understand something about the character of the society because we just loom so large on the world’s horizon. And we – for better or worse – have so much influence on what happens in all corners of the globe. So it behooves others to understand us, I think, as well as they can.