Education: The Ghosts

Once upon a time, when statesmen wrote their own speeches and authored their own autobiographies (or at least left that impression), a historian felt pretty sure that he could take a man at his word. Nowadays, complains Historian Ernest R. May in the American Scholar, things are tougher. The modern biographer can no longer be sure just what part ghost and what part flesh his subject was.

"The choice and order of words in Jefferson's writings enabled [biographers] to rebuild and portray his pattern of thinking, but for contemporary public figures, similar analysis is practically impossible. If, on the basis of letters...

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