The Past is not Dead

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“The past is not dead,” William Faulkner once wrote, “It’s not even past.” As a historian, there is a temptation to see past events as static, unmoving, and fixed. It will never change because it cannot change. But that is not to say that we will not change, and, with us, our view of the past. Just as the past colors the present and shapes the imagined future, so too does the imagined future and occurring present shape the past. What we call “history” or “the past” is really a present-tense reconstruction of what, how, and why a situation, an event, or an idea *may* have developed or come into being. The ever-changing historian never deals with the actual past. They only work with a contemporary construction that is always being reimagined and reconfigured.
And in this way, “The past is not dead. It’s not even past.”

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