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Jablonka’s History

Literature and the Search for Truth

Sarah Fishman


Although published in 2014, Jablonka’s History is a Contemporary Literature provides important insights into the Trump phenomenon. Why does a significant portion of the American population overlook Trump’s litany of lies and falsehoods? Journalist Adam Kirsch argued after the election that popular culture, Reality TV for example, blurred the line between fiction and truth, creating a “post-truth” atmosphere that paved the way for Trump. Kirsch echoes Jablonka, who advocates that historians use literary techniques in the interest of truth. Jablonka insists that history as contemporary literature must rest on historical research and methodology, using good historical story-telling to reach broader audiences, increase knowledge and deepen understanding. Jablonka’s manifesto defines writing history as a form of public service and presciently warns of the potentially catastrophic results of relinquishing the quest for historical truth.

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Uncovering the Politics of Playtime

Sarah Fishman

Since the publication in 1960 of Philippe Ariès's foundational, if problematic, Centuries of Childhood, the history of childhood has developed into a rich and varied field.1 At the annual conference of the Western Society for French History in 2018, a call for panelists for a roundtable on the history of childhood expanded into two separate panels ranging from the medieval era through the thirty glorious postwar years. The panelists and the audience grappled with questions about the social construction of age, the ages of childhood, and the challenges of finding sources for a group that left few “ego documents.” Although children per se never exercised political or global power, attention to children clarifies how critical children were to political and international systems. Material generated by children themselves can be difficult to locate, but adults generated plenty of material about children. The intersectionality of the history of childhood with fields like labor history, urban history, the history of the welfare state, and the history of psychology parallels the intersectionality of children themselves, who come from every race, social class, and gender. All humans, it turns out, start out as children.