I first encountered the mind of David Hackett Fischer in 1970 while I was a graduate student. Like many others I had fallen in love with good narrative history only to learn in my Ph.D program that the historical profession rewards skepticism, revisionism, and critical analysis over story-telling even though sophisticated historiography denies the possibility of objectivity. If historians’ secret embarrassment is their lack of epistemology, how then can they pretend to judge each other or advance knowledge of the past? One answer soon to be embraced by a whole generation of academics was to deny the reality of “so-called” facts altogether, denounce historical interpretations as the constructs of the hegemonic race, class, and gender, then proceed to impose favored discourses of their own.

I stuck with old-fashioned empirical, narrative history even when it threatened to hurt my career. I attribute...

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