When I started this blog, late last March, I was just wrapping up a three-year term as Graduate Program Director in a middling-to-smallish history department at a large, urban, public university in Canada. Many of the problems associated with that kind of job, and with graduate training more generally, were fresh in my mind. Joining … Continue reading Crisis and Elitism in Graduate Education
Why study history in graduate school? A promising undergraduate student asked me this recently, not quite in so many words. My answer was inadequate; despite my own advice on the subject, and despite everything going on at the moment in politics and academe, when sitting in my office and put on the spot I floundered … Continue reading Letter to a Prospective Graduate Student
In the wake of the Royal Society (London, 1660) and the Académie Royale (Paris, 1666), a slew of scientific societies formed in the later seventeenth-century European world, nodes in an expanding network of institutions devoted to experimental science, natural history, and kindred sorts of philosophical activity. A short-lived member of this scientific community was the … Continue reading Happiness as a Colonial Science: new publication
In his 1697 Essay on Projects, Daniel Defoe referred to his era as a "Projecting Age": a time of schemes, plots and plans to make life (life in general, and the projector's life in particular) better. Many projects were what we would call scams, and many more looked that way. In a conservative and moralizing age, projects were … Continue reading New Publication: Towards a History of Projects
We are witnessing -- more than that, experiencing -- events that seem certain to be remembered as a turning point in the history of the United States, part of a series that is changing the political horizons of much of the world. Our knowledge is partial and the future unwritten. But the collapse of a familiar (and flawed) order, the destabilization … Continue reading Historians under Trump
My first week of teaching -- as a teaching assistant, at Columbia -- was the week of September 11, 2001. I was 23, just starting the second year of my PhD, and I'd spent much of the summer frantically reading everything I could to prepare myself for being in the classroom. Then Tuesday morning happened. … Continue reading Shouting with a PhD
We are, like so many public institutions, in the midst of austerity. Some of it is up-front, such as the "voluntary departure" schemes encouraging staff and faculty to take themselves off the payroll for early retirement -- and leaving academic departments chronically understaffed. Much is coated with an icing of rhetoric about strategic planning or buried amid myriad … Continue reading I, University
History shows that there is a God. History teaches that free and open commerce is beneficial to all. History shows that children are no asset for a Prime Minister. History teaches us to hope. History teaches us that confronting antibiotic resistance requires stronger global collective action. History teaches that the Roman Catholic religion has … Continue reading Lessons of History: Stop It
Historians, historically, are lone wolves. In contrast to most STEM and social-science research, the typical product of a historian's efforts is a single-authored article or (better) scholarly monograph, most likely supported by individual grants and researched and written alone during individual sabbatical or research leave. As far as funding goes this has begun to change, perhaps especially … Continue reading Why Team-Teach History?
"Why study history?" is the more usual question, and the collection of answers to that is extensive enough. But while it makes sense to think that the reasons for studying history and the reasons for teaching it are congruent from a certain point of view, I very much doubt that the reason I feel a … Continue reading Why Teach History?