October 21, 2011


Allitt and Lipstadt: Why history matters

Patrick Allitt, Cahoon Family Professor of American History, and Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies, Deborah Lipstadt, teamed up to talk about "Why History Matters" in a Oct. 18 discussion at the Miller-Ward Alumni House with Rosemary Magee '82PhD as moderator.

Both adamant about the importance of history, Allitt and Lipstadt approached the topic differently. Allitt focused on what history can teach us, while Lipstadt's comments on the importance of history were personal. 

Allitt began with how our absorption of history changes as we get older, and "the more you read about history, the more you recognize patterns in the way in which people act." Although history can teach us a lot, "we have to be very cautious about what lessons we draw," he said.

History matters in large and small ways, Lipstadt said. She shared a personal story about history's role in her libel suit, in which a well-known Holocaust denier charged her with making false statements about him in her 1994 book, "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory."

She was nervous at the time of the trial because "there's history and there's the courtroom, and history does not operate in the same way as the courtroom. But," she said, "in this case the two meshed in a beautiful way." Instead of calling Holocaust survivors as witnesses, she relied on historians to prove that the denier's claims about the Holocaust were false and not supported by historical documents.

Listen to the full conversation on Emory on iTunes U.

"Why History Matters" is part of the Emory Alumni Association's Faculty Within Your Reach series. "The Interchangeable Body" with Linda C. Cendales, who led a multidisciplinary team that performed Emory's first hand transplant, on Nov. 17 at the Emory University Hospital Midtown is next in the series.

File Options

  • Print Icon Print