Now that the second book is safely out of my hands, I've been working for the last little while on some new things: perpetual motion machines (see this earlier post for a very preliminary version), Spanish ghosts in English-conquered Jamaica, scientific projectors in Restoration England, and so on. One of these, as previous posts might … Continue reading And now for something completely different
The news that this has been a slightly more abysmal year than usual for academic jobs in history has provoked a lot of justified (if impotent) outrage online. An important part of this has centred on the "adjunctification" of the university -- the replacement of tenure-track positions with part-time, temporary gigs -- and with the … Continue reading Student-Teachers and the Limits of Academic Freedom
I'm no Luther, not even a Posner. But here are some thoughts prompted by several years in academe, and by exchanges on this blog and Twitter over the last year or so. Many criticisms of "academic" scholars from outside the academy reveal a poor grasp of the workings of (a) research and teaching; (b) academic … Continue reading Theses on Academia, Academic Scholarship, and Their Critics
Let me start by saying that by far the best take I have read on this now-notorious Chronicle piece (Shannon Reed's fictional contract requiring a student whose grandmothers keep dying at exam time to perform various embarrassing tasks for the professor to agree to "buy" it) is this blog post by Acclimatrix at Tenure, She Wrote. Among other … Continue reading The Dead Grandmother Business
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
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
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?