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In this remarkably wide-ranging book Professor Lowenthal analyses the ever-changing role of the past in shaping our lives. A heritage at once nurturing and burdensome, the past allows us to make sense of the present whilst imposing powerful constraints upon the way that present develops. Some aspects of the past are celebrated, others expunged, as each generation reshapes its legacy in line with current needs. Drawing on all the arts, the humanities and the social sciences, the author uses sources as diverse as science fiction and psychoanalysis to examine how rebellion against inherited tradition has given rise to the modern cult of preservation and pervasive nostalgia. Profusely illustrated, The Past is a Foreign Country shows that although the past has ceased to be a sanction for inherited power or privilege, as a focus of personal and national identity and as a bulwark against massive and distressing change it remains as potent a force as ever in human affairs.
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'An impressive achievement: it assembles and categorizes man's attitudes towards his past in a fashion attempted nowhere else.' John Dixon Hunt, The Times Higher Education Supplement
' ... a marvellously entertaining book.' John Kenyon, The Observer
'Lowenthal writes brilliantly, revealing a sweeping grasp of art, literature and philosophy as well as the twists and turns of history.' Myron A. Marty, St Louis Post-Dispatch
'A work of singular merit and grace.' David Keymer, Library Journal
'David Lowenthal gives us a new understanding of a universal human experience by imaginatively refashioning the remains and records of the past in England and America from the renaissance to our own time ... a significant milestone in the history of thought and culture.' Merle Curti, University of Wisconsin
' ... a tour de force, staggering in the breadth of its approach and eclecticism.' Council for British Archaeology Newsletter
'Highly original, erudite, ... this imaginative book dislodges deeply held assumptions.' Publishers Weekly
'David Lowenthal offers us a meditation on misuse of the past in contemporary culture, and by so doing makes a brilliant contribution to our understanding of the present ... bold in generalizations yet firmly grounded in particulars rich with human interest.' Michael Kammen, Cornell University
'Everything distinguishable about the past is here ... a book which you will enjoy if you know that the past attracts you, or if you think that you are immune to its power or its spell.' Peter Laslet, Washington Post
List of illustrations; Introduction; Part I. Wanting The Past: 1. Reliving the past: dreams and nightmares; 2. Benefits and burdens of the past; 3. Ancients vs. moderns; 4. The look of age; Part II. Knowing The Past: 5. How we know the past; Part III. Changing The Past: 6. Changing the past; 7. Creative anachronism; Bibliography and citation index; General index.
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