When Government Writes History
May, Ernest R.
New Republic; 5/23/2005, v232, #19, p30, 6p (cover story)
Reputed historian Ernest R. May was the senior adviser of the 9/11 Commission. His job was to help produce the historical narrative that ended up preceding the final report's two chapters of recommendations in eleven chapters on the history of September 11. May describes what sets the final report -- that was nominated for a National Book Award – apart from other government reports, “Typically, government reports focus on "findings" and array the evidence accordingly. None, to our knowledge, had ever attempted simply to produce professional-quality narrative history. None, certainly, had been conceived as international history, not just American history. None had aspired to deal not only with the immediate past but also with the long background that would be needed if, as we said to each other, the report was to remain the reference volume on September 11 sitting on the shelves of high school and college teachers a generation hence… Here was an opportunity to try to tell the whole story from both sides.” Ernest R. May is Charles Warren Professor of American History at Harvard.
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