Significance in American History

Recently, the Smithsonian Magazine produced a list of what they claimed were the “100 Most Significant Americans.” Their analysts reached this conclusion through processing wikipedia and GoogleBooks. I’m not convinced this was the best measure or that all the names produced were really the most significant.

Now, I think this raises the big issue of what we count as significant and how we judge that. What is significance? Can it be quantified? Who do you think were significant Americans–and why? (Hint: that’s why there’s a comment section!)

Blogging historian Chris Gehrz assembled a panel of historians to comment on the listings, and I was pleased to participate. It didn’t hurt that I could do that instead of grading one more paper late at night.

Over the last two days, Chris has posted the responses. Take a look at them and see what you think!

Who Are the Most Significant Americans in History? (Part 1)

Who Are the Most Significant Americans in History? (Part 2)

Also, if you read to the end, you might just see a reference to a figure from the forthcoming book Patriotism and Piety.

Who is this (unmasked) Methodist? (Hint: he’s referenced in Part 2!)


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