Review: Dangerous Games

Read: Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History by Margaret MacMillian
Stars: Five

Drinking: Pumpkin Spice Chai, Twinings

Dangerous Games should be required reading in high school history classes or by the first year of college at the latest.  MacMillian’s series of essays on history, based on a lecture series she gave, is an excellent overview of how it can be used not just to uncover hidden narratives and analyze our human nature, but to create narratives that can be used to exclude people or justify atrocities.  She looks at various examples from the past and the current era.

I found her most interesting point to be that the history that we learn today says less about that particular event or time period than it does about what our current priories and views are. For example, the histories of women, non-white, non-European peoples, and LGBTQ people are emerging as society becomes more open to realizing the roles that they have played.  Heroes are recast as more complex people with less-than-heroic motivations. Or the role a country played in genocide can be wiped out, only to be “rediscovered” when a later generation investigates.

It’s not the most in-depth, analytic book about history.  But it is a useful tool to remember that the history you read is not always the whole story.

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