exotica.” In the early 70’s Hobsbawm noted that academicnradicals admired communist societies in proportion tontheir geographical or cultural distance from the Westernnexperience.nA point sometimes heard is that historians used to try fornobjectivity but no longer do. Though this may be true, therenare deeper problems with the current academic historiography.nIt is tiresome and—to use a still applicable Victoriannword — unedifying, because it lacks tragic vision or evenngratitude to the civilization that produced it.nThis is history lacking, if you will, a sense of history, ansense of belonging to an unfolding civilization. Foreshadowednby Edmund Burke and the early Romantics, thisndevelopmental concept fused the notion of history asnprocess with a deep appreciation of the past. Even sonthoroughgoing a historical progressive as Hegel denouncednpolitical changes aimed at remaking society. A soundnconstitution, said Hegel, was never “a mere contrivance,”nbut was the “work of generations.”nContemporary historiography lacks all reverence for thenpast. It is guided by a suspicion that treats inheritedninstitutions as mere obstacles to the fulfillment of annimaginary and ahistorical human nature. The past is seen asnconcealing and distorting instead of revealing our truenhumanity. It is there to be condemned — or else reshaped innorder to arouse and sustain revolutionary consciousness.nMankind, as seen from this perspective, is on the marchntoward a scientifically-designed millennium that might havenbeen reached earlier but for the machinations of businessntycoons, religious evangelists, the American State Department,nand anticommunist generals.nThis view cannot produce epic historiography. Nor is itncapable, in my opinion, of engendering even minimallyninteresting reading. Academic historians too often havencardboard heroes and stock villains that even a literary geniusncould not bring to life. For such historians there is nothingninsoluble, nothing requiring moral limits, and thus, likenAeschylus’ Agamemnon, they become “unbearable to thencrafty child of Ate” by perpetually overreaching. Thennemesis of this overreaching in the modern case is not a fall,nbut silliness aping dramatic gravity.nA work that purports to deal with a tragic aspect of recentnhistory, William Appleman Williams’s Tragedy of AmericannDiplomacy, illustrates my brief The book is an extendedncondemnation of American corporate capitalism, whichnWilliams blames for Third World underdevelopment, thenCold War, and the thwarting of socialist revolution. Certainlynit is easy to see why it appeals to Cold War revisionists andnacademic critics of American capitalism, though it is also anbook that contains the untragic flaw of never documentingnits central thesis. Williams contends that America’s overridingnforeign policy goal during the Second World War, whichnit tried to press on the Russians at the Potsdam Conference,nwas keeping Central and Eastern Europe open to Americanncapitalist control. As Robert Maddox and others have shownnconvincingly, not a shred of evidence, save for Williams’snquestionable inferential judgments, exists for this argument.nBut more importantly, Williams — on other occasions anninsightful leftist — misunderstands the nature of his ownnpurported theme: tragedy. Williams speaks not of fatednsuffering, but only of economic forces that appeal to himnand others that do not.nBy contrast, the tragic imagination, which has producednour best historical and literary drama, grasps what isninherently awful in the human condition. Man is bornnfatally flawed: “evil from his youth,” as Genesis explains, orn”with rash pride begetting an even more disastrous boldness,”nin the words of Aeschylus. Yet if man is born to suffer,nthis inescapable unhappiness befalls the noble as well as thenbase. Hector and his kinsmen suffer together with theirnbrother after Paris has betrayed the hospitality of the king ofnSparta. In no sense does Hector abet Paris in seducingnHelen, yet he too must pay the price of an outrageous act,nwhich he does by dying heroically. The suffering of Oedipusnand his children, say the Greek tragedians, is retribution fornthe misdeeds of the descendants of Cadmus. In the openingnlines of Sophocles’ Antigone, the protagonist tells her sisternthat a fratricidal war has just claimed their two brothers; thisnwas Zeus’ punishment for the evils of their father, Oedipus.nThough the suffering is divinely destined and in some sensendeserved, we are meant to mourn the fall of Oedipus andnthe anguish he causes to his children. We are also meant tonfeel sympathy for Oedipus’ daughter, Antigone, who upholdsnthe “law that is everywhere in force” when she buriesnher rebellious brother, fallen in battle against his native city.nAntigone, though acting against the orders of her tyrannicalnuncle, exemplifies familial piety, and suffers for it. Sophocles’ninsistence, as expressed by the chorus, that “there is nonrelease for mortals from allotted suffering,” means thatnmisery is our common destiny.nHistory has been turned into propaganda for a newnsocial agenda. Industrialists and other members of thenruling class are seen as reprobates; those whonstruggle — or can be made to appear to struggle—onnbehalf of approved minorities are the designated elect.nFrancis Cornford argues convincingly that the universe ofnGreek tragedy provides the ethical and metaphysical contextnof Thucydides’ great work on the Peloponnesian War.nThucydides, no less than Aeschylus and Sophocles, sawnpride and temptation interacting with inexorable necessity innhuman affairs. He calls our attention to heroic acts as well asnfolly in a war that he deplored (for he knew it would destroynall Greeks).nCornford points to an understanding of tragedy that wasnpresent in ancient Greek schoolchildren — and, I wouldnadd, among those who read popular histories of the AmericannCivil War. Lincoln and Lee, no less than Pericles andnthe Spartan allies, did their duty as they saw it. Lincolnnhimself reflected on the fact that the North and the Southninvoked the same Deity in a struggle in which each sidenclaimed to be worthy of divine favor. Speaking at Washingtonnand Lee University in 1907, Charles Francis Adams Jr.,nson of the Union’s most brilliant statesman, eulogizednRobert E. Lee on the centenary of his birthday. Though hisnfather and Lee had been on opposite sides in the war,nAdams believed that both had followed their consciencesnfaithfully: “Every man in the eleven states seceding from thennnDECEMBER 1988/ 19n