Past Mistakes: How We Misinterpret History and Why It Matters (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

"Cultures and societies and individuals have done considerable damage in misrepresenting the past, wilfully or not, and Mountain here seeks to redress some of that damage. He certainly succeeds in restoring to the past the complicated and colorful nature that humanity has always had, quite literally in the case of ancient statues, that we now know were very colorful, even garish to our taste. This is done to illustrate the point that misinterpretation of the past is dangerous, it empowers reactionary forces in our world, and is used maliciously to erase peoples and movements. Humanity is and always has been rich and diverse and weird, and removing these is a disservice to all the wonder we have created and can continue to create, and this book cleverly shows us this, as well as a warning to not ignore such things."--Reviewed by Andrew


The stories we tell about our past matter. But those stories have been shaped by prejudice, hoaxes and misinterpretations that have whitewashed entire chapters of history, erased women and invented civilisations. Today history is often used to justify xenophobia, nationalism and inequality as we cling to grand origin stories and heroic tales of extraordinary men. Exploring myths, mysteries and misconceptions about the past - from the legacies of figures like Pythagoras and Christopher Columbus, to the realities of life in the gun-toting Wild West, to the archaeological digs that have upset our understanding of the birth of civilisation - David Mountain reveals how ongoing revolutions in history and archaeology are shedding light on the truth. Full of adventures, and based on detailed research and interviews, Past Mistakes will make you reconsider your understanding of history - and of the world today. From the fall of Rome to the rise of the Wild West, David Mountain brings colour and perspective to historical mythmaking.

About the Author

David Mountain is a writer, speaker and editor, based in Edinburgh. After working as a scientific editor at an environmental NGO, he studied the politics of nationalism at the University of Edinburgh and now writes about history, politics and philosophy. This is his first book.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781785786624
ISBN-10: 1785786628
Publisher: Icon Books
Publication Date: February 9th, 2021
Pages: 400
Language: English