Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Shrinking Historian?

Here's my reply to a discussion over at Edwired by Dan Cohen.

Ditto to many of Sage comments in support of your analysis. We’re often missing the broad strokes and then wonder why our own students cannot put history into its broader context. I think one of the SUNY schools has developed a “broad-field” doctoral program that teaches future historians how to not over-specialize so that no one else understands you except for a few, select fellow specialists in your particular field.

There are so many topics and connects to explore in history and wiping away the broad themes as being only in support of the dead, white males is just ridiculous.

Carol Berkin at Baruch is one of the “traditionally” trained historians who "broke out" to write for popular audiences and has been criticized for same. Yet, thousands of people will know more about women in the American Revolution thanks largely to her book, Revolutionary Mothers. It’s a manageable work for those people who don’t get paid to read for a living and tells some great stories. Who could ask for more from anything they read?

Despite some of its challenges dealing with where to go next in technology, H-Net is one of the best examples of organizations who allow a broader membership within its larger context. While some individual communities believe gatekeeping is important to what they are doing, others explore areas traditionally ignored by the “authorities” in the profession. H-Net used to meet in conjunction with the AHA and this year is moving it’s more official meeting space to the Social Science History Association - a community that is more interested in technology and is more diverse in its active membership.

Blogs like yours, H-Net, and other social networking approaches in person and online make our profession much more rich and diverse.

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