The uses and abuses of history (Part 1)

Two new releases—both, I’m willing to venture, destined for bestsellerdom—offer in their own ways exquisite reminders of how history-conscious our culture used to be and how bereft we’ve become in that regard. That, in fact, is the theme of the the introduction Tony Judt appends to Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century, a collection of his journalistic pieces from 1994 to 2006, covering topics from the fall of France in 1940 to “The Strange Death of Liberal America.” (The title of that article and that of the introducton, “The World We Have Lost,” pay gracious tribute to two of the most seminal history books of Judt’s forgotten century: presumably he thinks his audience still remembers them.)