Past Mistakes: How We Misinterpret History and Why it Matters


YA & Up

  • Historical Figures
  • History
  • Activism
  • White Supremacy
  • Trailblazers
  • Misinterpretation
  • Evolution
  • Sociology
  • Society

David Mountain


If you, like me, are fascinated by topics like history, anthropology, sociology, and culture, this is the book for you. If you obsess over how societal values evolve and how time and the media warp history, (you’ll love the podcast You’re Wrong About) and you’ll also love this book!

Author David Mountain looks at historical records, primary sources, and gets to the bottom of why we misremember and purposefully obscure facts. You’ve heard of the Pythagorean theorem, right? What if I told you Pythagoras was actually a fringe cult leader who abhorred beans so much, members weren’t allowed to eat them? What is even the truth, was he a genius or a snake oil salesman? I loved reading through historical smear campaigns (Caligula, anyone?) and finding out more details about the events surrounding why these rumors persist today.

I’ve asked a lot of questions so far in this review, but believe me, they’re worth thinking about. I love learning about culture, and how our society evolves over time. Past Mistakes takes what we think we remember from history class and sets the record straight! It’s crucial that we educate ourselves and unlearn the romanticized version of history that is often steeped in Eurocentrism, racism, and imperialism.

Teaching (and learning) whole histories relies on an individual’s ability to investigate further than what lies on the surface. Past Mistakes had me at the title, and I appreciate an author that sees how misinformation impacts marginalized folx, fuels xenophobia, and is a continuation of colonialism. Definitely worth reading if you’re ready to have your mind blown and then be filled with rage that you’ve been hoodwinked for this long.

This book is out on February 9th! It was published by Icon Books and sent to me by Cursor Marketing. However, all opinions and decision to review are entirely my own.

David Mountain

David Mountain is a writer, speaker and editor, based in Edinburgh. After studying biology and geology at the University of Bristol he became a scientific editor at an environmental NGO, working across the savannahs of central Kenya and the gardens of suburban Java to tackle the problem of invasive species. He has since studied the politics of nationalism at the University of Edinburgh, devoting more time to exploring, and writing about, history. He is fascinated and infuriated in equal measure by history, politics and philosophy, and can’t resist pointing out flaws and contradictions in how we think we understand the world.

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