Saturday, December 29, 2007

Stephen Ambrose - History as an Art

I was fortunate in undergoing an exchange of letters with the celebrated historian Stephen Ambrose(the exchange was all too brief, as Ambrose passed on shortly thereafter).
I once asked him what specific aspect of history he was dealing with at the moment. The letter I received from him was one of great interest to me, as in this particular letter he railed against a rumor from historical revisionists that during the Second World War the British were deliberately starving a number of German war prisoners in North Africa, and he was setting out to demolish that rumor.
The rancor in this letter demonstrated what the pure historian is all about; namely, that the only agenda the historian should utilize is the Truth. Like any performing artist, who seeks the truth from the material being studied in order to render a proper statement , the true historian seeks the same kind of answer. Ambrose, an American historian, is defending the true position of the enemy prisoners, let alone that of the Allies in uncompromising terms, and demonstrates his unequivocal loathing of the baseless rumor projected by the Revisionist, such as demonstrated by the likes of David Irving and Ward Churchill.
Funny; after his tirade in the letter, he becomes the really pleasant, personable man he was, and ends his letter in a surprising way:
"Happy Trails,"
Stephen Ambrose
Shades of Roy Rogers!
If anybody reading this blog had ever gotten a letter from Ambrose, did he sign off the same way?? I'd LOVE to know!

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