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The Past is a Foreign Country

by David Lowenthal

ISBN 0521294800 / 9780521294805 / 0-521-29480-0
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Language English
Edition Softcover
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Book summary

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. [via]