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

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The Dead Grandmother Business

Let me start by saying that by far the best take I have read on this now-notorious Chronicle piece (Shannon Reed's fictional contract requiring a student whose grandmothers keep dying at exam time to perform various embarrassing tasks for the professor to agree to "buy" it) is this blog post by Acclimatrix at Tenure, She Wrote. Among other … Continue reading The Dead Grandmother Business

What’s the Use of History? A Postscript

Having already devoted my two last posts to John Pepall's attack on "university historians", I don't wish to go on beating a dead horse. But inasmuch as I find his take on the nature of history's relevance misguided, and his understanding of history as an academic discipline factually incorrect, I am loath to leave the subject on a wholly … Continue reading What’s the Use of History? A Postscript

What’s the Use of History? Part 2

Continued from here. For Pepall, then, the relevance of history to any member of the public is rooted explicitly, indeed exclusively, in that person's identity -- an identity conceived, moreover, in terms of birth, nation, and a kind of essential ethnic continuity ("some of what happened [in Sumer] is with me still"). Yet Pepall is at … Continue reading What’s the Use of History? Part 2

What’s the Use of History?

So asks John Pepall in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of the Dorchester Review. Not that he really thinks there's any question. As he informs us on page one, The use of history, the only use of history, is its being known and understood by the general public, those of us who are not historians, not producers … Continue reading What’s the Use of History?

Now in Paperback: The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish History

Moderate self-promotion alert: I'm happy to say that the paperback edition of this book will be out early next month. My own very modest contribution is a chapter on Restoration Ireland (1660-1688). I'm grateful to the editor, Alvin Jackson, for inviting me to write it; having looked at this brief but decisive period of Irish history from … Continue reading Now in Paperback: The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish History

Loyalty

In light of this recent Chronicle Vitae piece by Jonathan Rees, on the ethical dilemma posed by leaving a job, historian and blogger John Fea asks about the limits of faculty members' loyalty to their institutions. I started writing a response to his post, but one thought followed another until I'd written more than a "comment" should … Continue reading Loyalty

Universities, Academic Freedom, and the Advertising Imperative: Thoughts on the Potter Case

The anniversary of my first post on this blog comes as friends and colleagues again debate the merits, costs and consequences of various forms of academic engagement with the public. This time the occasion is the forced resignation of Andrew Potter from the directorship of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, in the wake … Continue reading Universities, Academic Freedom, and the Advertising Imperative: Thoughts on the Potter Case