• Silencing the Past

  • Power and the Production of History
  • By: Michel-Rolph Trouillot
  • Narrated by: John Pruden
  • Length: 5 hrs and 45 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (155 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Placing the West's failure to acknowledge the most successful slave revolt in history alongside denials of the Holocaust and the debates over the Alamo and Christopher Columbus, Michel-Rolph Trouillot offers a stunning meditation on how power operates in the making and recording of history. Presented here with a new foreword by renowned scholar Hazel V. Carby, Silencing the Past is an indispensable analysis of the silences in our historical narratives, of what is omitted and what is recorded, what is remembered and what is forgotten, and what these silences reveal about inequalities of power.

©1995 Michel-Rolph Trouillot; foreword copyright 2015 by Hazel V. Carby (P)2015 Tantor
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"Trouillot taught us all how to read carefully, argue passionately, and write responsibly." ( Boston Review)

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What listeners say about Silencing the Past

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  • Overall
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Excellent analysis of the production of history.

This book analyzes records, lack of records, and how people employ records and scarcity of records. Initially it was a bit rough, hard to follow. But once the author moved into telling a story and then analyzing that narrative, it became easier to engage. This is a short book. However, I found myself pausing and rewinding often to sit with the concepts. This is a very helpful book for my doctoral research. I think it would be excellent for others who are also thinking critically about history, narrativity, and current social issues.

7 people found this helpful

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Dense, but brilliant

A perspective on history that has rarely been voiced so comprehensively. May take a few reads to fully understand, although I found listening to it much easier than reading it. The reader sounded like a white man, and I have to wonder why they didn't choose a Black man to narrate, since I assume the author, being from Haiti, was Black. Just wanted to bring it to attention.

4 people found this helpful

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History Primer

Would you consider the audio edition of Silencing the Past to be better than the print version?

N/A I did not read the print.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It makes me think

Any additional comments?

Before you consider reading or listening to a History account, read or listen to this book! This book will make you change the way you view and read history. Think you understand a Historical event, time, or personage? Think again. This book forces you to make a paradigm shift as how to receive historical information, even your own! Just because you experienced it doesn't make it the true historical account. Before assessing blame, condemning players, or bestowing prestige and according accolades, read this book and get a better understanding on how to read, study and understand History. If I ever teach History, this book will be week ones required reading!

3 people found this helpful

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I wish they had a different voice

Too bad the narrator's voice annoyed me. I couldn't even finish the book. How can I request a different narrator?

2 people found this helpful

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A must read

I highly suggest this wonderful short read for a better understanding of the world we now live in.

1 person found this helpful

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Informative

The author triggered me to really use critical thinking. For instance, "blacks" were referred to as illiterate during slavery. This makes sense because they did not know the language. It wasn't theirs, besides, were'nt most of the common people back then illiterate?

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Philosophy about history.

I bought this audio title because I thought it would discuss how history is documented. Historical sketches exist and the author makes some valid points such as the fact of historical silences. Overall, though, the book comes across to me as philosophical nonsense. Example: the author appears to claim the past does not exist and only the present matters. As a student of history, I believe the past does exist and matter because it is what we can learn from to affect the future.

The author indicates in the bookthat it is intended for U.S. students persuing graduate degrees. I bought the book out of personal interest, and am thankful I was never required to read this book. The audiobook purchase was primarily worthwhile for me because it provides a perspective about history/historians by someone from another culture. Additionally, an excellent narrator was selected by the audiobook publisher. I cannot recommend this title's content, however. Please avoid it if possible.

1 person found this helpful

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Amazing.

Educational and entertaining. If you like/love history you’ll be impressed with the author’s clarity, knowledge and honesty. It almost makes me come to the conclusion that the Truth is Relative. You can’t go wrong, pick it up you won’t regret it.

1 person found this helpful

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Brilliant Classic on Historical Imaginaries

Silencing the Past explores the construction of historical memory. Trouillot looks beyond naive recitations of facts and probes the process of choosing facts in the construction of narratives. In this sense, it is a powerful criticism of the discipline of history, but it is also a cultural critique.

The book begins with a deceptively clear explanation of the process of constructing histories. Historical facts must be identified, elaborated upon, framed, contextualized, and placed in wider historical narratives if they are to have any meaning. But in the process of doing so, historians literally make history in both senses of the expression. They create historical narratives and the narratives shape cultures, thereby changing the course of history.

Trouillet then applies this analysis to African-American, colonial, and particularly Haitian history. The reference to Haiti may at first seem obscure, and I sometimes found myself complaining that the book was neither history nor philosophy but incomprehensible history dressed up as philosophy. Yet, Haiti is a strange country, where black slaves revolted amid the French Revolution and later built their own country. It was the first successful revolution in Latin American history, and it was one of the first three of the democratic era of modern history. And yet, almost no one is aware of it, and it has been disappeared from history books where it is critical to the story, as in the Louisiana Purchase, which only went down because Napoleon was defeated in Haiti—long before Waterloo. So, Trouillot also restores Haiti’s rightful place in history while illustrating the way historians silence pasts that are unthinkable, or in other words outside their conceptual frameworks.

All in all, it is a brilliant and informative listen, well worth the time for anyone interested in colonial studies, the philosophy of history, deconstructionism, postmodernism, the history of slavery, or Haiti.

~ Theo Horesh, author of The Holocausts We All Deny

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Incredibly Informative and Insightful!

I found this read very insightful. It places a great deal of context around what information becomes “documented history”. Many of the truths shared in the book, we know anecdotally. The author connects the socioeconomic dots to make the knowledge concrete and tangible.