The Modern Law Library

In 'Myth America,' historians challenge misinformation about our past

  • Print.

Myth America book cover

Some American patriotic myths are harmless; George Washington may have chopped down a cherry tree at some point in his life, but the popular story told to children where young George fesses up to the deed by saying "I cannot tell a lie" is made up from whole cloth. However, there are much more pernicious lies and misinformation circulated about our past as a country, and that misinformation is used for political ends.

Princeton University historians Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer say they have been alarmed about this uptick in misinformation, censorship and rewriting of history. Having previously co-written Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974, they decided to partner as editors of a book responding to this wave of false history. They commissioned a number of other prominent historians to contribute, and the result is Myth America: Historians Take On the Biggest Legends and Lies About Our Past.

In this episode of the Modern Law Library podcast, Kruse and Zelizer speak with the ABA Journal’s Lee Rawles about how their project began and what they see as the greatest challenges facing modern historians. They offer tips on how to evaluate claims about history as a nonhistorian. They also discuss one of the most pervasive myths in the legal community: the true importance of Federalist Paper No. 10.

Want to listen on the go? The Modern Law Library is available on several podcast listening services. Subscribe and never miss an episode. Apple | Spotify | Google Play

In This Podcast:

<p>Kevin M. Kruse</p>

Kevin M. Kruse

Kevin M. Kruse is a history professor at Princeton University and the editor or author of a number of books. He co-edited Myth America: Historians Take On the Biggest Lies and Legends About Our Past with Julian E. Zelizer. Kruse is currently conducting research for his new book, The Division: John Doar, the Justice Department, and the Civil Rights Movement. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.  

<p>Julian E. Zelizer</p>

Julian E. Zelizer

Julian E. Zelizer is a history and public affairs professor at Princeton University, a CNN political analyst and a regular guest on NPR’s Here & Now. He is an award-winning author and editor of 25 books. He co-edited Myth America: Historians Take On the Biggest Lies and Legends About Our Past with Kevin M. Kruse. He is currently working on a new book about the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the 1964 Democratic National Convention. He lives in New York.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.