Google and History

I am very impressed with Google’s recent launch of its News Archives Search. Basically, in partnership with major content owners, Google is indexing newspaper and magazine articles going back to the 18th century.

I spent an hour doing various searches and found the content very interesting, although a lot of the historic newspaper content is full of typos and OCR errors, and much of the best content is available only for a fee. Over time, more and more good historical content will be free. The Time Magazine content is very useful.

I’ve been listening to an audio book called “Lies My Teacher Told Me” that reviews 12 American History textbooks and shows how false and full of misinformation they are, especially when it comes to religious, race, and economic class issues in American History. Textbooks gloss over these issues and almost never quote from original sources.

Google’s News Archive Search is a step in the right direction. Combined with Google Print, which will bring millions of public domain books onto the web (and into PDF format for free downloads), more people than ever before will be exposed to actual historical content. I really wonder what it will do to our view of ourselves when we realize how racist and bigoted we have been in this country (like under Woodrow Wilson), and how interventionist we have been (according to “Lies My Teacher Told Me” the U.S. has intervened in Nicaragua 17 times) and how the way other nations view America is shaped in part by what they teach in their history books and we omit from ours.

My own political views have been affected by listening to this audio book and discovering some historical facts I have been ignorant of. I look forward to learning more.

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3 Comments

  1. I just read an article about an ancestor who I never met. By indexing marriages, obituaries and other events that make the news, Google has provided an amazing new way to learn about our past.

  2. If you liked “Lies My Teacher Told Me” you’ll love “Legends, Lies & Cherished Myths of American History” by Richard Shenkman and “The Real Abraham Lincoln” by Thomas DiLorenzo. When the government buys the history books and runs the schools, it is no wonder it comes out smelling so good.

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