“All history is retrospective”

All history is retrospective. We’re always looking at the past through the lens of later developments. How else could we see it? We are ourselves, as subjects, among those later developments. It’s natural for us to take events that were to a significant extent the product of guesswork, accident, short-term opportunism, and good luck, and of demographic and technological changes whose consequences no one could have foreseen, and shape them into a heroic narrative about artistic breakthrough and social progress. But a legend is just one of the forms that history takes….

Louis Menand, “The Elvic Oracle”, The New Yorker (16 November 2015), 87.