Books: Telling the Birth of a Nation

FRANCE AND ENGLAND IN NORTH AMERICA

by Francis Parkman; Library of America; 2 volumes; 3,124 pages; $60

Contemporary historians like to pretend that they are not the people who make history. Self-conscious about their central role in carving out a portrait of the past, they lapse into academic mumbling. Pick a manageable (small) subject, process enough data, arrange all available figures into charts and graphs, studiously suppress any hint of narrative judgment or point of view, and truth will be served. As a result, libraries are filling up with inaccessible accuracy, exhaustively researched big...

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