‘Ancient History’ in the News

Not a good week for the uses of ‘ancient history’ in the mass media:

In an Atlantic piece, titled “Has 9/11 become ‘ancient history‘?”, we can read the following from Rep. Peter King (R-NY):

But the Congress of 2015 is not the Congress that locked arms and sang “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps in 2001—more than three-quarters of those serving in the House and Senate now were not in office on 9/11. “Much of that is diminished,” King said. “It’s like ancient history, like the Battle of the Bulge or Pearl Harbor.”

More alarmingly, in the Globe, Niall Ferguson compares the situation in Europe after the Paris Attacks with the late Roman Empire. Mark Humphries has an excellently written reply:

Peter Heather, one of the modern historians of Rome’s fall cited by Ferguson, allows for a more nuanced analysis of the empire’s collapse. He writes: “there is no serious historian who thinks that the western Empire fell entirely because of internal problems, or entirely because of exogenous shock.” I’ve often wondered what the obvious opposite of Heather’s “serious historian” – a frivolous one – might write. Having read Ferguson’s ill-judged and shallow analogies between 5th century Rome and 21st century Europe, I think I now know.

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