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What's the Use of History? A Postscript

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 negative note. 1,048 more words

History

What's the Use of History? Part 2

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 is with me still”). 1,578 more words

History

What's the Use of History?

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, 2,279 more words

History

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. 583 more words

History

Why Study History? Reflecting on the Importance of the Past.

Al Mackey, the Civil War historian who runs the excellent Student of the American Civil War blog, has today put up a very thoughtful and incisive piece on a book written by another one of our blogging colleagues, Dr. 286 more words
History

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. 1,650 more words

History

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 amid the familiar flotsam of transferable skills, multiple career paths, intellectual interest, and so on. 329 more words

History