On Mendacious and Shitty Academic Punditry

[I have meant to write a blog post about this almost since my last one went up, but Twitter threads keep coming out instead. What's below is an amplified version of one of them, so apologies in advance to Twitter followers of mine who tire of harangues. The title repurposes, not unfairly I hope, a … Continue reading On Mendacious and Shitty Academic Punditry

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Irish Slaves, from Myth to “Debate”

At the risk of stating the obvious, it is important that historians try to get the past right -- to describe it accurately, to base their claims about it on evidence, and to represent the sources from which that evidence is drawn fairly. Historians face mounting challenges in public discourse from dishonest, misleading, or made … Continue reading Irish Slaves, from Myth to “Debate”

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

Trump and the Myth of Independence, Part 1

It's a cliché that Americans are particularly prone to idolize the wealthy. This is sometimes interpreted as a result of the once-revolutionary belief in meritocracy, an elevation of personal achievement and discipline over the sources of status prized by the ancien régime: land and lineage, culture and manners -- in short, to pick an overloaded word, … Continue reading Trump and the Myth of Independence, Part 1

Hobgoblins: fear and politics in the 17th and 21st centuries

Like our own, the political culture of seventeenth-century England was shaped in no small part by its constituents' fears; it was defined, as academics might say, by its Others, its excluded, resented, suspected, oppressed. In fact, it has been argued at least since Winthrop Jordan's massive and still worthwhile study White over Black that the very same racist … Continue reading Hobgoblins: fear and politics in the 17th and 21st centuries