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The Stakes of HistoryOn the Use and Abuse of Jewish History for Life$
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David N. Myers

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780300228939

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300228939.001.0001

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History, Memory, and What Lies in Between

(p.1) Introduction
The Stakes of History

David N. Myers

Yale University Press

The Introduction begins with the simple question that opens Marc Bloch’s classic book The Historian’s Craft: “What is the use of history?” This question has assumed particular urgency in the past decade as interest in the humanities and the study of history has waned. But well before, various modern commentators, ranging from Friedrich Nietzsche to Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, have questioned the utility of historical research that tells us more and more about less and less. In contrast to this claim, this chapter suggests that history, while it has the capacity to distort, can and often does edify. It also suggests that history should not be seen in opposition to memory, but rather frequently serves as a tool of remembrance. In this regard, the chapter engages in a sustained dialogue with Yerushalmi’s seminal 1982 book Zakhor, which posits a bright-line distinction between history and memory—as well as with other writings of his that present a more complicated assessment of the relationship between them.

Keywords:   History, Memory, Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Crisis of humanities, Marc Bloch, Amos Funkenstein

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