From the Editor
Maybe we're all feeling a little guilty for not paying closer attention during "American Civics 101" (sorry, Mrs. G.), but historyespecially American historyhas become a consistently popular topic for the readers of this magazine. It may seem surprising for a newsmagazine, but we've long had a soft spot for a well-told tale from the past, especially if it's based on new research. History really isn't a static subject, as we've found in fresh new interpretations of everything from the Bible to the Battle of Trafalgar. After all, if the victors usually get to write the first drafts, what can we learn by unearthing the versions of the losers? Many times, a historical perspective has current relevance, such as our recent comparison of two presidents under siegeGeorge W. Bush and Harry Trumanor the lessons of the Vietnam War votes in Congress. Sometimes, it's just plain interesting: What were the Chinese up to when the English landed at Jamestown? How did people live in the Year 1? Of endless interest is the American Civil War, the subject of our cover package this week. Fresh scholarship, including new documents, continues to emerge on people like Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln, and even Jesse James. These accounts add texture to their characters and motivation to their actions during the most wrenching period the nation has confronted. At a time when many of our institutions are being tested in profoundly challenging ways, people have a hunger for understanding the facts and principles that got us here. As the man said, those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. Or at least repeat the course.
This story appears in the July 2, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.