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

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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

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

Don’t Make Graduate Students Freak Out about Publishing

Sometimes the title tells you all you really need to know. But I did write a little more on this than just the one line, and the piece -- a draft of which I tried out here -- is now in the Chronicle of Higher Education, in the Chronicle Review. I'd like to thank the Chronicle editors for vastly improving … Continue reading Don’t Make Graduate Students Freak Out about Publishing

Truth, Freedom, and Productivity: When PR usurps scholarship

No one wants ill-advised assessment regimes imported into higher education. No one wants to see a single-minded, narrow emphasis on quantifying value. No one desires deeply flawed metrics being used to compare institutions and individuals. Nevertheless...[1] Quoting the above out of context is a little unfair -- the authors are talking about the need for … Continue reading Truth, Freedom, and Productivity: When PR usurps scholarship

Academic publishing and graduate students: Thought for the day

My grandfather was born in 1909: not old enough for the First World War and too old for the Second, he served in the US Navy between the two. He had, I think, about three or four years of elementary school before leaving to work; though I remember him as prone to quoting Scripture and Shakespeare and singing lines of … Continue reading Academic publishing and graduate students: Thought for the day