In contrast to the physical sciences, and even other social sciences, the study of history is, by nature, subjective. There is no real mathematical formula to assess the past. It is more an art, or artifice, than a science.
Yet how we present and think of the past can shape our future as much as the statistics-laden studies of economists and other social scientists. Throughout recorded time, historians have reflected on the past to show the way to the future and suggest those values that we should embrace or, at other times, reject.
Today we are going through, at both the college and high school levels, a major, largely negative, reassessment of the American past. In some ways, this suggests parallels to the strategy of the Bolsheviks about whom Serge wrote. Under the communists, particularly in the Stalinist epoch, the past was twisted into a tale suited to the needs of the state and socialist ideology. This extended even to Bolshevik history, as Josef Stalin literally airbrushed his most hated rivals – notably Leon Trotsky, founder and people’s commissar of the Red Army – into historical oblivion.