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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
"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?
Last Thursday, PhD student and amateur historian Rebecca Rideal published a book about London in the very busy year of 1666. 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