History is to society what memory is to the individual. Without it, we dont know who we are and we cant make wise decisions about our future. But while the nature of memory is constant, the nature of history has changed radically over the past forty years. In The Purpose of the Past, historian Gordon S. Wood examines this sea change in his field through consideration of some of its most important historians and their works. He offers wonderful insight into what great historians do, how they can stumble, and what strains of thought have dominated the marketplace of ideas in historical scholarship. The result is a history of American history, as well as an argument for its ongoing necessity. A commanding assessment of the field by one of its masters, The Purpose of the Past will enlarge every readers capacity to appreciate history.