Some American patriotic myths are harmless; George Washington may have chopped down a cherry tree at some point in his life, but the popular story told to children where young George fesses up to the deed by saying "I cannot tell a lie" is made up from whole cloth. However, there are much more pernicious lies and misinformation circulated about our past as a country, and that misinformation is used for political ends.
Princeton University historians Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer say they have been alarmed about this uptick in misinformation, censorship and rewriting of history. Having previously co-written Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974, they decided to partner as editors of a book responding to this wave of false history. They commissioned a number of other prominent historians to contribute, and the result is Myth America: Historians Take On the Biggest Legends and Lies About Our Past.
In this episode of the Modern Law Library podcast, Kruse and Zelizer speak with the ABA Journal’s Lee Rawles about how their project began and what they see as the greatest challenges facing modern historians. They offer tips on how to evaluate claims about history as a nonhistorian. They also discuss one of the most pervasive myths in the legal community: the true importance of Federalist Paper No. 10.