tv Book Discussion on The Undivided Past CSPAN March 29, 2015 1:00pm-1:41pm EDT
>> host: princeton professor, when we write history don't rewrite it as conflict? >> guest: i think a lot of teeple to write history as conflict. i think there is an entirely good reason why that is so. that is to say that war was and is and always will be a major part of human history. i suppose the reason -- one of the reasons i got to write the undivided past was because i thought that the predilection today to see the world in manicured terms divided essentially between the good guys and bad guys has in my view become a mindset which is
excessive too prevalent and insufficiently investigated. i thought that it would be interesting to write a book built around the six categories of identity were conflict is often a major way in which the past is written about, to say hold on this is indeed part of the story, but there's another story to tell as well. i've tried to make the case for getting more attention to in this book. ..
seems to me that very often, more often than not, i think, the world is actually a more complicated place than that, and it seems to me that it's maybe the job and it's certainly the predilection of pundits to say the world is simple. it seems to me that part of the job of professors at princeton and elsewhere is to say the world is a very complicated place, and you ignore that complexity not only at your peril but maybe at ours as well. >> host: page 264 you write the history of humankind is at least as much about cooperation as it is about conflict. can you give an example of that? >> guest: well, the book is full of examples of that. i suppose the general point i was seeking to make in saying that was that conversations across the boundaries of identity are at least as important as conflicts based on claims to identity which are often, i think mistaken and so
rather than give one particular example issue think one of the points that's the book tries to argue nit last chapter on civilizations is that in a post-samuel huntington world, we're invited to believe that the world is driven forward on the basis of civilization's clashing. and that assumes we can -- their relationship is antagonistic. seems to me on the contrary it's difficult to -- that i think is a hopeful thing we ought ponder and the relationship of civicses chancer yeted by conversation and interaction and feeding off each other. >> host: you define six areas or categories of how to divide humankind, religion nation class, gender, race, and civilization. how do you define civilization? well, it was part of the our of my book is to argue that is
actually very difficult and the people who tried to define civilization get into trouble. many people have within on civilizations but can never agreen what they are, how long they last or how they interact with each other or not. it's a very powerful term. it's a very resonant term and part of the chapter was to say we taught be careful about using these collective categories because they are very unrebuffed and we should certainly be very careful about supposing that there is a world in conflict built around these categories. for example in the huntington book he has this notion that india is a hindu civilization. well actually there are more muslims in india than almost any country in the world with the exception of indonesia. so these carting to graphalling luigss are powerful buts think misguided and mistaken and can
be put to very pernicious issues. >> host: when it couples to religion -- you open the book with religion. why. >> guest: because it is the one -- one of the six categories of identity which arguably has the longest history. seemed to be one better start off the beginning. that seemed one good reason. i thought it was a good idea to start with religion in that we believe today some people believe today we're invited to believe today, that the world is divided between a christian western and islamic east and that this is how relations between christianity and islam have always been, and again one of the purposes of the opening chapter on religion was to put forward a considerable amount of evidence for the fact that christianity and islam haved a least as much conversed across the mediterranean has they've been in conflict. so it seemed that was a rather good strong, place to start.
>> host: why is it -- what is it about religion professor cannadine, that has led to conflict over the years of humankind? >> guest: well, i think that some of the conflicts that are claimed to be in the name of religion might actually be about other things. dynastic conflict or other motives. religion isn't necessarily the motive although might be the explanation. it's true that historian one has to give credence to the power of life systems and one of the things that is interesting about many religions they can be interpreted as encouraging people to convert the heathen or if not to convert them, then at least to fight them, and that is one way of thinking about christianity and one way of thinking about islam. but of course it's also the case that both of those religions, as is the case with other religions elsewhere, they're sacred texts can be read to make a very
different case about coexistence. while it seems there are good historical reasons why certain points in the past conflicts have occurred which are presented in religious terms, the crusades it's also the case that on many occasions people of different religions have got on done business, conversed with each other. the difficulty is that doing business conversing getting on, is rather to historians what good news is to journalists. doesn't make a good story. it's not a good headline. but actually, it may well be like good news, that's the way most of us would like to live our lives and the way many of us now and our forebearers have lived their lied. >> host: another category is nations. it that a rather artificial human identity. >> guest: it's more -- one thing interesting about nations,
national identity, is that one can trace the rise of those nations and national identity in western europe or europe more broadly, from the 18th century on nationalism but one can also point out that many of the claims made on behalf of nations, as the ultimate unit of loyalty, are not necessarily easily squared with other claims such as claims to religious identity, claims to trade union identity and so that again the claims that the nation state ills the supreme object of a person's loyalty and, therefore, the one most important in their identity is i think -- one of the things i was trying to do in the book was by laying side-by-side these different forms of identity religion nation class, gender, race, and civilization, was to point out that a different times people have made claims on behalf of each of these identities that are mutually exclusive regarding any of the other. that's to say some people say religion is the one single
identity that is more important than any other, or say the same about nation or gender or class or race. can't all be right. i suppose one of the purposes of the book was to point that out. just by looking at each of these different forms of identity which i don't think anybody haven't done before and useemed to me it would be rather interesting to check that out to see what the claims were that were being at advanced by different people on behalf of these different identities, and they say they same religion is the most, nations the important class, gender the most important identity, race the most. civilization is the most important. they can't all be right. so there's a problem there. >> host: professor, when did you start thinking about history in this way and what are some of the categories you left out? >> guest: i started thinking about this about ten years before this book came out. a read a book called "class" in
britain in which i tried to look at the different ways in which the british had conceived their social structure, there were overarching different ways they thought about it. thought at about it's a hierarchy from the queen at the top to lowly people at the bottom. a seamless web of the social fabric where you can't make any obvious lines cutting off some social groups from others. then there was the notion of upper clarks middle class and lower clarks then the notion of us and them. i was interested to play with the idea there was no one absolutely prevalent view of how the british had seen their society over time, and there was indeed no one prevalent way of looking at it which was more right or correct or true than any other. and that sent me to thinking about in the notion of whether collective categories such as class could, as it were bear the weight of the claims that people made on their behalf. that is one way in which i began to think about the issues that came out in the book.
secondly, i read a book beside how the british saw their empire, and one thing i was interested the doing there was to look at empire as a way in which affinities were cultivated across the boundaries of a i'd between britain and the empire and that often as it were destabilized allegedly important and impermanental categories such as race, that ahiscrats got an with i'm of a race but they were people of a similar social stand michigan and shared a sense they came out high in the social hierarchy. it was interested in that. that led know wonder whether race was necessarily moonlight this cam gore as some people -- moonlightic identity. and then i got the invitation to give a lecture at cambridge university in 2006 and i had to
give six lectures so i had to think of six topics so i came up with religion class, gender race civilization nation. and on the whole i think those are the biggest six categories and that they fit in rather well into this book. but i suppose the one category that i did toy with adding was actually the category of empire. i didn't wonder whether that shouldn't have a chapter to itself. partly because i wanted to play with the idea that one of the ways that you can become understandably fashionable to see empire to see empires, is as in some senses built around hierarchies of race, especially european empires. on the other hand, it's important to notice that empires aren't just european. other parts of the world have done them too. so what does that tell us about the notion that there's something unique about western empires which is racially
constructed. maybe if we talked about empire more globally and more generically we might want to think about other ways in which -- other categories of identity. and also while i think there's some truth in the view that western empires are in some senses founded on racial categories, they're founded on many other categories too. another way of thinking about empires is they're a way of managing multiple racial identities. actually unless you manage them they don't work. now, that's not the whole of the truth. there are clearly racially motivated conflicts in empires but on the whole, people managing empires want to minimize the conflicts. otherwise empires would just unstable all the time. i suppose i would have lined to have written a chapter on that. but i haven't yet and probably won't. but in a sense it's addressing differences that were geographical considerations. the issues eye played with on
the six categories. >> host: is this a book on western civilization? >> guest: it's a book which tries to under why that motion of western civilization has been a powerful one. that's what it does in the civilization chapter but also a book that tries to suggest that's a concept that we need to be fairly careful about defining or indeed wondering whether we can define it and about deploying it. >> has class fallen off as an important category in our modern world? >> guest: the answer is yes more than it should have. it's interesting that at the decline of communism and at the discrediting as a consequence of that of marxism has resulted in the baby been thrown out with the bath water marks was associated with class and was
discredited because we don't need class anymore. that's regret e greatable -- regrettable. if one things about the history of empire there's a great deal of work about the 'empires with regard to race and gender very little work done with regard to the history of empires take upping the subject of class which is what i tried to raise my book, and i think the social structures and social inequality are hugely important if think on the whole the marxist notion of class as a collective category of identity doesn't have the scholarly credibility that it once did but if we think of class as a short-hand term not for that but as social structure or class as a measure of inequality, i think it's very regrettable those things aren't talked about and it's rather interesting in the last two or three years people have been beginning to rediscover inequality and talk about it again and in the western world is a unprecedented level.
i think it's a good thing we are talking about that again. >> host: is gender a more contemporary division? >> guest: one thing i wanted to try to do in this book was to notice that these different categories of identity have antecedents of varying lengths and that's why i start with religion. it's the one with the longest history. it's fair to say that one can make some arguments for gender as we would understand it now really having become a significant subject in the late 18th 19th century, and feminism following from that. and with the issue of gender i was particularly intrigued with the contradiction which i think is inprince sick so issue of gender are women like and she be treated as equals or women are dirt from men and should be treated differently. one issue which feminism has struggled with is which side of that you come down on.
and i think also one of the things i try to show in the chapter on gender which is drawing on a whole variety of scholarship -- i'm not the first person to have said this -- one of the issues that has worried many feminists are you a woman? is this the most single important aspect of your identity or is the fact that you're black or white, rich or poor, live in europe or elsewhere in the world, how far these competing identities undermine the claims that being a woman is the most single form of identity. one thing i think the book tries to show in each category is that there are always these alternative forms of identity which undermine the claims that people want to make that the identity they're writing about is the one that's most important. >> host: david cannadine is a professor of history here at princeton university booktv is on location visiting with professors who are also authors.
professor cannadine you are also sir david. why is that? >> guest: well, i am sir david. you have to ask other people why, since these are not things that one promotes ones self to get. other people have to -- there's a system which results in some people when they reach a certain age and stage in likes being given knighthoods and some not. it interests me as a history yap of class and hittan of the british aristocracy i ought to tell you that an early book i wrote was the decline and fall of the british aristocracy, and after i got my knighthood, i received a mess imagine is a truth it's falling when people like you are getting title jazz do you know why you got the title? why were you knighted? it's okay to talk about yourself sunny suppose because i've written a certain number of books which have aroused some
going of approval and generated a certain amount of controversy, and probably also because i have done a certain amount of public work. i used to chair the trustee's the national portrait galfully london and sat on quite -- the boards of quite a lot of cultural organizations, most connected with history and i suppose it's a combination of the two you have to ask the second tearat -- secretaryat, those who work on these. >> host: when quo look at the six categories how is it different from your birth country to your adopted country? >> guest: i've had a very privileged life in the sense i've been able to live on both sides of the atlantic, and part of the sum of that is seeing one country from the perspective of the other and distance does lend perfect. aspects of britain that seem strange over here but not strange when you're there and vice versa sample one thing that
does interest me is that this is a country which does not have a sense of hierarchy in the way that britain does. now, that's partly because it does not have a system of public titles. titles were abolished in the country in the aftermath of the american revolution, and in that sense, it really is different. britain does still have titles, has some sense of social hierarchy, and i am struck by the fact that in britain, when people, as it were appear on the public streets for some sort of orderly event, it's called a procession and that normally means it's ranked in hierarchical way in this country they're called parades, and they're not hierarchical and there is a sense in which although this is a country with a considerable amount of inequality, probably greater than in britain, it does not have a sense of hierarchy. one indication which is that almost everybody in this country describes themselves as middle class. nobody talks about the working class anybody and nobody says there's an up are class. i'm not sure that's right.
and so the way in which americans describe the society they belong to and their own place in it is i think very different from the way that people in britain describe their society and the way they fit into it themselves. and i think that is in part because this really is a country which, up although it does have inequality and that sense is class, is a country which doesn't believe in hierarchy and the british either believe in it or practice it and that asia significant difference and it's one that one can only get a sense of if you spend time in both countries. >> host: for 250 years, this country has been talking about the issue of race. one of your six categories. are we unique in that regard? >> guest: i don't know whether america is unique in that regard but it's certainly true that whereas looking at britain from here it is a country still very hung up on social origins,
social distinctions, social hierarchy on a way that america is not. by the same token i think it's interesting looking at america from the standpoint of britain, that it is a country which has a sense of guilt about race, which on the whole the british don't have. maybe they should have but they don't. i think americans do. because of slavery, because of the civil war, because of reconstruction. and that is certainly something that strikes one coming to this country. on the other hand, of course it's now true in the aftermath of the british empire that britain has back multicultural country in the way it wasn't when i was growing up and a large component of that mess is people who have come to britain from what used to be the empire and that is clearly given rise to a great number of problems and issues which are by no means fully resolved. maybe they can't but though i hope they can. on the other hand it is interesting that noodles are
century -- nowdays there are surveys which suggest london is the most successful multicultural city in the world, more multicultural that new york which is an extraordinary thought and a thought that would have been unthinkable 20 or 30 years ago. >> host: what do you teach at princeton? >> guest: i teach an undergraduate seminar on winston churchill. and this semester i have a big outline lecture course on monarchies, nations and empires from emthe fresh and me american rev lose to the present day and then i teach a graduate seminar on britain and the world from the mid-18th century to the mid-20th century. >> host: what do you want students to take out oft that besides memorizing names and facts, et cetera? what is the message in a class like that? >> guest: thissage for are for gentlemen undergreat whats is good fold behalf just because lucky never to live in this country in a democratic rub
where we should not suppose that people live in countries that can be described like that today. that is not necessarily to say that we should all sing the star spangled banner but it is to put the circumstances circumstances of america which in that record are ben never let wins in broader perspective and it that part of it. it's partly to say shat for most of human history, nations and empires have organizedded themselves around monarchy very restrictive franchise rather than around democratic republics and we ought to fund the whole of human history does not lead up to democratic republics and for most of our kinder issues they aren't democratic republics. so that's part of it. beyond that the general proposition which those specific issues are meant to exemplify, is that the reason for studying history is that it is the best antidote to the geographical
parochialism which assumes the only place is here and the temporal parochialism which assumes the only time is now. history has been going on for a very long time. people have been born lived, worried, married hoped, died, long before us and in many other countries than our own and we need to get ourselves into a broader perspective because otherwise we won't really understand what it means to be human and i suppose this big lecture course is one attempt at trying to help young people who are going to be running the world in the future at least i hope they will be -- to ensure they have a broader perspective on that world than otherwise they might. >> host: you have referred to sum samuel huntington a couple times and you talk about him in your book who was he. >> guest: he was a political scientist who worked at harvard university and wrote this book called the clash of
civilizations which was hugely influential and which was taken up in the aftermath of 9/11 by some people as being the belles way to understand the world -- the best way to understand the world if think political scientists are extremely interesting and important people from whom historians could learn a lot but some of them have a wish to try to make the world into a very simple place. very straightforward place. and as i earlier said and want to repeat while i think we need the world simply simply identified so we can understand it simplify can the world often means that we don't understand it. we misunderstand it. while i think for some political scientist their job is to say the world is very simple it seems to me for historians, it remains to say no, the world is a very complicated place. >> host: is it parochial to think of the world or to think
of just the western civilization? something specifically of china. >> guest: i think it is a bit. one of the things that princeton's history department has become in recent years, deservedly famous for is that it has pioneered the teaching and practice of what is called global history or world history. the notion that we need to get at understanding of the interconnected nature of the different parts of the world. now, that's a very difficult subject to teach because the danger is that it's so hopelessly superficial it doesn't teach anything and makes connections which are maybe easy to make but hard to demonstrate and there are issues there which i think it would be irresponsible not to admit. on the other hand, i think that it is true that we do now, more than ever, more than the world i was growing up in, in a kind of globalized world and we need to know about china, and about russia and about india and africa and lattin america.
in ways that certainly when i was growing up, we kind of didn't do. and i think again, part of the historian's job deparochializing the present and where we are is for him or her to say china has been around a long time. we need to know about this. china was arguably the most successful economy in the world in the 18th century and seemed to be backing the most successful economy in the world again. maybe this thing we thought of as western dominance is just a blip. is that true not true? i don't know but it's the kind of perspective we might want to bring to bear. >> host: why did you choose melon as a subject for a book? >> guest: i didn't. melon chose me. the way that worked was that when i talked to columbia university, in the 1990s i was back in britain nor summer and the phone rang and somebody said before i had a what happens to say who i was this the andrew
melon foundation in new york. we want you to write the life. i said this is david cannadine in england, you most have the wrong number, and he said we want you to do that and rather like how did i become a knight? the process how these things happen i don't know but it was irresistal. he had an incredibly interesting life as a pittsburgh banker the create you're of gulf oil a whole slew of companies. as the secretaries of the u.s. treasury in the 1920s, spectacularly and asksful and audacious art collector and the founder of the national gallery in washington. what was not to like about that? it had never been a published life. the archives were wonderful. it was an extraordinary story. the private life was also pretty interesting. and so it was a great project and i was very fortunate in
being asked to do it and it broadens me horizon. it gave me an interest in the history of north america which i had previously never really indulge inside a scholarly way and brought me into a world of museums and galleries and art collecting and philanthropy which has become an interest of mine going forward. so i hope that biography was thought to be good and it was certainly good for me. >> host: we're talk big professor david cannadine about his book "the undivided past" is your next book. >> guest: i published a short back on george v penguin have commissioned a series of biographies of every british nonfarc -- every english monarch, to the present queen. that's quite a love lot of them way. off erred any monarch in the 20th century. and they're short book skis thought 25,000 worlds was too
mump wording for edward the viii and not enough for request queen victoria but george 5th 5th it seemed right. there was five chapters, 5,000 worlds on george v. he was humanly again rare like andrew mellon, not a very interesting man but a very interesting life. that was great fun to do. i just finished another short book on the subject of winston churchill in bristol university. he was chancellor of the university in britain from 1929 to his death in 1965. and he was the most famous chancellor britain ever had and he was the most famous chancellor probably any university had in his own time. and it's 50th anniversary of churchill's death this year help died in january 1965 and there have been various commemorative events chaired the committee in london which has been overseeing that. and the universities a asked me to do the lecture on churchill
and so i wrote this piece which is far longer than the lecture. i have to speak more rammedry then usual to get through it all. so the big book i'm doing is the terribly long penguin history of 19th century britain. so long overdue when sign the contract for it the 19th 19th center century was the one immediately before the one we were living in. that's how late it is but i'm halfway. i have got ton 1851 and i hope to get the rest done by the end over year. >> at historian is world war 2 going to be a blip in the history of civilization? is 9/11 going to be a blip in the history of civilization? >> guest: i think one of the things that its very interesting about the second world war -- i'm not expert on the second world war -- i think the second world war did come as close as any recent war ever has to being the good guys versus the bad
guys. i think that the hitler regime germany and the regime in japan were deeply wicked and had to be destroyed and the acknowledge way to destroy them was to fight them. it's not the whole hoff the story. there are various aspects of the allies record not entirely admirable and you couldn't present it entirely as war for freeman dom if you had stalin as your ally. the british might haven't of have felt they won in 1945 but the polls had a different view. they replaced win dastardly rick tai take for for another. on the other hand, die think on the whole we were the good guy skis think they were the bad guys and had to be fought and had to be won. i think what is interesting about the second world war beyond that in terms of how it has been invoked since is that it has been invoked as the par
dimeatic war and wars since them korea, vietnam, iraq, have been presented in the same way. that we're the good guys guys and they're the bad guys. we're fighting dictatorship. all the rhetoric of the second world war that churchill better than anybody unfolded. i think the problem is that it probably isn't really true that those descriptions of wars since the second world war are actually very valid. and i think that the attempt to present subsequent british and american military engagements as fighting for the same causes that the second world war was all about it's the strongest temptation but i think on the whole it misrepresents these later wars. i think, for example, the invasion of iraq was a post colonial dirty war. not a battle for freedom against
despotism but that is how it was presented and that the rhetoric of the second world war been misapplied and misappropriated to wars that britain and america have subsequently been involved in. whether that means the second world war was a blip don't know. it was rather good blip. i wouldn't be talking to you if that blip hadn't happened. so i'm rather partial to the second world war and having been in the nation on the winning side. but i do think that the use that's been made of the second world war by world leaders especially by british prime ministers and american presidents to justify later military action is historically at best misguided, at worst completely irresponsible. >> host: this is booktv on c-span2. we're at princeton university and we have been talking with professor david cannadine. sir david cannadine about his book "the undivided past." >> booktv is on twitter and
facebook and we want to hear from you. tweet us, twitter slash -- twitter/book tv, or pose on our facebook page. >> host: now joining us on booktv is politics professor at princeton melissa lane. she has written a new book published by princeton, called the birth of politics. it's greek and roman political ideas and why they matter today. professor lane, were the greeks and romans successful politicians. >> guest: they were. the greeks managed in different city states to develop the world's first democracy in athens. they produced works of art, literature, great works of architecture and political institutions voting, for example, which remains fundamental to our politics
today, and the romans of course, ruled the republic for 500 years and went on in am empire for another 500 years so they have a lot to offer. >> host: what do they have in -- what were the sim layers between -- similarities between the two? >> guest: interesting question. both of them emphasize this role of election and of a kind of fundamental role for the people in setting the terms of legitimacy. so that's true in greek democracies and true in the roman republic. so, for example in the roman republic, no law could be passed without it being passed by a popular say assembly. so think about the influence of the efleet rome, in the senate and that was significants but the senate couldn't pass law. they manage business and the budget but they -- if they
wanted to actually pass a law they had to go to the people and actually it's interesting that even under the empire that idea that the people fundamentally are responsible for setting the terms of legitimacy continued so that the romans thought the people acclaimed each new emperor and it's from that public affirmation that their legitimacy derived and that idea then gets into mid medieval and becomes an important underpin fork sovereignty. >> host: who are some over the leaders in the greek development of politics. >> guest: for example, if we think about athens one of the interesting things is that the athennan democracy is in stages. the beginning is the law giver solan. now, solan one of the first people who helped to start athens on what would become a
democratic path, lived in around 594. so at the beginning of the sixth century bc. and at that period he really established a principles of justice between the rich and the poor but then after solan there was a period where one of family of ol'ly backers got the upper -- oligarchs got the upper hand and were considered tyrant. but not in a good sense. they might be good to the order people but by the end of this dynasty, this minidynasty, they became quite corrupt and it's been 510 that they are overthrown and at that point athens in 508 starts to take its real turn towards becoming a democracy under -- then later in the next century under others. >> host: melissa lane, who had
more authority the greek people, the roman people? >> guest: that's -- so, in many ways the athennan people, in the sense of the order poor people, had the greatest authority in athens, more than that the poor did in rome, and they played key roles, for example, in the court system so all the courts were staffed by huge popular juries as many as 500 people on a jury, and there were no professional judges. so they didn't have the division that we have between the law and the facts, just group of 500 or whatever number in a particular case of people would just decide what they thought the law required and so that was an incredibly important source of power. they were responsible for lawmaking also in athens and they staffed a lot of what we