Giving Rare Books to Undergraduates

Not a great idea? I tried it this week in my seminar on historical research, in the course of trying to move beyond the idea of primary sources as disembodied texts to see individual books, letters, and manuscripts as objects whose physical properties and fates could be as or more interesting, if harder to trace, than their contents. I … Continue reading Giving Rare Books to Undergraduates

Crisis and Elitism in Graduate Education

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

Letter to a Prospective Graduate Student

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

Historians under Trump

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

Lessons of History: Stop It

  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

Is Our Historians Learning? Popular, Academic, and Political History

Last Thursday, PhD student and amateur historian Rebecca Rideal published a book about London in the very busy year of 1666.[1] Written for "the general reader", it's entitled 1666: Plague, War, and Hellfire. As is not unusual for authors of trade books to do -- when the chance presents itself -- she gave an interview in … Continue reading Is Our Historians Learning? Popular, Academic, and Political History

If Historians Ran the World

Historians are all atwitter over the "Applied History Project", the brainchild of Harvard scholar Graham Allison and globetrotting virtual historian Niall Ferguson. With what would seem like hubris in lesser mortals, the two projectors call on the next US President to create a "Council of Historical Advisers": a body of historians to help with policy much as the current Council … Continue reading If Historians Ran the World

Historians vs Trump, part 2: Questions for Stanley Fish

Among the books I'm reading is a work of fairly recondite early modern intellectual history. Bucking a once prevalent tendency, the author of this work is at pains to disavow any political context for the intellectual debates s/he traces. For roughly half a century, political motivations have been detected behind ideas about not only politics but also economy, religion, history, and … Continue reading Historians vs Trump, part 2: Questions for Stanley Fish

Stanley Fish, Stop Opining about History

I would have no problem with individuals, who also happened to be historians, disseminating their political conclusions in an op-ed or letter to the editor; but I do have a problem when a bunch of individuals claim for themselves a corporate identity and more than imply that they speak for the profession of history. So … Continue reading Stanley Fish, Stop Opining about History