Imperfect Past II
The late southern writer John Egerton once observed that there are three kinds of history: what actually happened, what we are told happened, and what we finally come to believe happened. It is that third type that author Charles F. Bryan, Jr., addresses in many of the essays in Volume 2 of Imperfect Past: History in a New Light. As he did in Volume 1, Bryan challenges many of the assumptions about the past that he and his generation were taught in school some sixty years ago. A once simplistic story has become more complex, but at the same time, more compelling and provocative.
Volume 2 of Imperfect Past is a compilation of some eighty essays he wrote as regular columns for the Richmond Times-Dispatch from 2016 until mid-2021. These include the story of a young man who became the unlikeliest of heroes by being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor; a man living behind the Iron Curtain who begged for history books that gave uncensored accounts of the past; the year in which the summer was so cool that farmers reported scattered frost in some areas of the country; great and not so great Presidents; a VMI graduate who became a Civil Rights martyr; controversial presidential elections; scandals and the church; the Great Insurrection of January 2021; lessons learned from earlier pandemics; books that helped change the course of history; and many more.
If you enjoyed reading Volume 1 of Imperfect Past, you have another treat in store in Volume 2. As Pulitzer Prize winning writer Rick Atkinson has noted: “Few historians write about the past with greater insights than Charles Bryan. His essays are personal, accessible, provocative, and always compelling.”
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