What Are Historians Good For?

Len Gutkin:

Two summers ago, The Review published a fascinating essay by the historian Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins on the question of “presentism” in the discipline of history. (In her 2002 article “Against Presentism,” Lynn Hunt defined the object of her attack in two ways: “1. the tendency to interpret the past in presentist terms; and 2. the shift of general historical interest toward the contemporary period and away from the more distant past.”) The topic felt newly urgent, motivated by questions about whether Trumpism could be illuminated by analogies to European fascism as well as by a series of highly publicized debates around