"The Victors Write History"

I didn't push on this, but many commenters noted that the "victors" bit was an especially tepid strain of weak-sauce offered up by Lane. Indeed historians frequently invoke the Civil War to point out how awful the "victors" line really is. From Cynic:


Since when do "the victors write history?" It is the writers who write history. Often, that means the perspectives of the literate and the literary trump those of the unlettered. Those writing in societies with a strong degree of cultural continuity are more likely to have a lasting impact. But it is absurd to suggest that history is nothing more than the justification of events as they unfolded, straightforward triumphalism. If anything, it is more often written as a critique of society and events, past and present. Has Lane ever actually opened a textbook? Do they cast every failed attempt at justice as an ignoble stain upon our past? Certainly not. Nor are successful efforts at genocide, ethnic cleansing, or revolution necessarily lauded. So his entire premise here is utterly fallacious, built upon a common truism that happens to be false.

This also got me thinking about the Vietnam War. Are the winners the only ones actually writing the history? We need to disabuse ourselves of this habit of saying things because they sound good.
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

The Blacksmith: A Short Film About Art Forged From Metal

"I'm exploiting the maximum of what you can ask a piece of metal to do."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

Video

The Rise of the Cat Tattoo

How a Brooklyn tattoo artist popularized the "cattoo"

More in National

From This Author

Just In