Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 115 / Number 1
Making History in Virginia
- By Brent Tarter, pp. 2 –55
"Making History in Virginia" traces the development of historical writing about Virginia from the earliest days of the colony to the anniversary year 2007. For the first three centuries, nearly all of the historical narratives came from the pens of participants or eyewitnesses to the events described, and nearly all were from the perspectives and in the voices of white men. As a consequence, the histories of many of Virginia's populations were comparatively neglected, including the experiences, achievements, and tragedies of Indians, women, African Americans, and the working classes. The first generations of scholarly historical writing in the twentieth century reinforced the earlier tendency to focus on white men and on political and military history, and until the 1960s and 1970s, almost no scholarly inquiries seriously treated the period after Reconstruction. During the past two decades, scholarly interest in many aspects of Virginia’s history and culture that had been inadvertently or deliberately ignored has filled many gaps in our knowledge about the history of the colony and the commonwealth. Even more importantly, the new scholarship is leading to wholesale revisions in the way much of Virginia's history is interpreted. Even the standard narrative of political history is being extensively revised in the light of new scholarship on women and reformers, and a renewed interest in religious and intellectual history provides a richer context in which to reassess long-term political trends, reform movements, and about the lives of the people who lived in Virginia.