Obama’s Legacy as a Historian

Historians in the News
tags: Obama legacy



Around noon on Friday, the presidency of Barack Obama will officially be history, and for months the news media has been awash in considerations of the first African-American president’s legacy.

But there’s one aspect of his record that has received less attention: his legacy as a historian.

True, Mr. Obama may be unlikely to emulate Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and follow his years in the Oval Office with a stint as president of the American Historical Association. But some scholars see in him a man who used the presidency not just as a bully pulpit but also as something of a historian’s lectern.

And he wielded it, they say, to tell a story more strikingly in sync with the bottom-up view of history that dominates academic scholarship than with the biographies of great leaders that rule the best-seller list.

“Obama had these confabs with the presidential historians, but I don’t think he thinks like a presidential historian,” James Grossman, the executive director of the American Historical Association, said, referring to the regular dinners Mr. Obama held with leading historians in the early years of his presidency. “I think he thinks like a social historian.” ...




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