Student-Teachers and the Limits of Academic Freedom

The news that this has been a slightly more abysmal year than usual for academic jobs in history has provoked a lot of justified (if impotent) outrage online. An important part of this has centred on the "adjunctification" of the university -- the replacement of tenure-track positions with part-time, temporary gigs -- and with the … Continue reading Student-Teachers and the Limits of Academic Freedom

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The Winter of Our Discomfort: Speech, Debate, and Learning on Campus

November approaches, and with it thoughts of #snowflakes. I was called one not too long ago, for arguing that a history magazine should not have published a letter promoting a debunked myth and defaming one of its debunkers. The use of editorial discretion in such a venue, I was told, would be "censorship". As I've … Continue reading The Winter of Our Discomfort: Speech, Debate, and Learning on Campus

Empathy for the Devil

The idea that "Tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner" has never convinced me. Explanation is not vindication; it's often the opposite. Historical analysis does not always or even usually result in more sympathetic characters. And scholars who draw on ever more extensive archives to revisit the deeds and thoughts of the great and dead are more … Continue reading Empathy for the Devil

History in the Toilet

My last two posts dealt with a troubling letter and article the appeared a peculiar sort of publication: a history magazine. Perched between the worlds of "pop history", an unwieldy category to which both much good work and a good deal of dreck belong, and the often duller and less accessible world of professional scholarship, such … Continue reading History in the Toilet

Crackpot Historicism

The observation that the Trump era is a good time to be a historian is by now cliché. The routine yet outlandish lies that increasingly puncture public discourse; the proliferation of "fake news" and the appropriation by its makers of the label "fake news"; the appeal to "alternative facts" and the self-fulfilling prophecy of "post-truth" … Continue reading Crackpot Historicism

The Rule of the 20th Century (The Shape of Academic History, Part II)

My last post looked at the geographical focus of academic historians in Canada, and found that it was predominantly Canadian and European. This was not too surprising, though it does make media laments about the neglect of Canadian and "Western" history by the academy seem uninformed if not simply dishonest. But what motivated me to … Continue reading The Rule of the 20th Century (The Shape of Academic History, Part II)

The Shape of Academic History, Part I: Geography

I used to open my introductory course on pre-modern European history (c.400-1789) with an image that I have come to think of as "History Goes Boom." It's evidently from the cover of a History Book Club magazine or catalogue, though when or where it was issued is more than I've been able to figure out … Continue reading The Shape of Academic History, Part I: Geography

Brains drained: Some thoughts on the Canada 150 Research Chairs

Canadian academics and perhaps a handful of other people will have heard over the last month or so of a new program: the "Canada 150 Research Chairs". This is a version of the long established Canada Research Chair program, by which generously funded chairs in  all manner of disciplines are allotted to universities across Canada … Continue reading Brains drained: Some thoughts on the Canada 150 Research Chairs

Quo Vadis? Cui bono? History, bullshit, and the corporate university

A public art competition sounds like a good thing, in the abstract. (Thanks, folks, I'll be here all week.) On the other hand, people like me tend to think that context counts for a lot. With those two points in mind, allow me to introduce "Legado", site of a new art competition that bridges the … Continue reading Quo Vadis? Cui bono? History, bullshit, and the corporate university

Theses on Academia, Academic Scholarship, and Their Critics

I'm no Luther, not even a Posner. But here are some thoughts prompted by several years in academe, and by exchanges on this blog and Twitter over the last year or so. Many criticisms of "academic" scholars from outside the academy reveal a poor grasp of the workings of (a) research and teaching; (b) academic … Continue reading Theses on Academia, Academic Scholarship, and Their Critics