The Corner

Culture

Woke History

After seeing the absurdity of some professional historians on Twitter, I’ve wondered how long it would take for woke-y content to begin seeping into their work. I don’t mean books adopting 1619–style fabulism or tomes that theorize about the past, but rather straightforward academic histories. Well, I’m reading a new one on the Vikings, titled Children of Ash and Elm, by Neil Price — a book I assumed would be the kind of dense history I prefer. And there, on page 158, prefacing a discussion on sex roles in Viking society, I run into this:

Today we have developed a rich vocabulary of identity and preference, of sexual orientation and its infinite expression, of our bodies and how we inhabit them, of our relationships with others, including our preferred forms of address — in essence, a terminology that at its best acknowledges and empowers who we each feel ourselves to be.

Now, I’m sure gender roles in 7th century Nordic society were far less nuanced and equitable than those of modern Denmark or Sweden. And though it is an otherwise fine book (I recommend it!), I would contend that it’s highly debatable that humans can be whatever we “feel” or that we have an “infinite” menu of choices. Mostly, though, I’d rather not be lectured to at every turn. History is escapism, a place to learn about the realities of the past, not the fashionable societal trends of today.

David Harsanyi is a senior writer for National Review and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun

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