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

Watching CNN on Turkey, or explanations vs. stances

Like everyone that I know online, I spent most of yesterday evening watching and/or following events in Istanbul and Ankara. And once I got home (my temporary DC home, base for a quick research/writing trip) I turned on CNN and left it on for the rest of the night. Since the First Gulf War, which gave us … Continue reading Watching CNN on Turkey, or explanations vs. stances

Arguing for history: If not skills, then what?

The quiet, leafy corner of Twitter where I spend increasing amounts of my time exploded this morning with responses to the following statement: Society doesn't need a 21-year-old who is a sixth century historian. It needs a 21-year-old who really understands how to analyse things, understands the tenets of leadership and contributing to society, who … Continue reading Arguing for history: If not skills, then what?