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Crackpot Historicism

The observation that the Trump era is a good time to be a historian is by now cliché. The routine yet outlandish lies that increasingly puncture public discourse; the proliferation of “fake news” and the appropriation by its makers of the label “fake news”; the appeal to “alternative facts” and the self-fulfilling prophecy of “post-truth” — all reveal anxiety about the possibility of truth, or at least accuracy, and about the boundaries between honest disagreement and cynical disingenuousness. 1,066 more words

History

The Rule of the 20th Century (The Shape of Academic History, Part II)

My last post looked at the geographical focus of academic historians in Canada, and found that it was predominantly Canadian and European. This was not too surprising, though it does make media laments about the neglect of Canadian and “Western” history by the academy seem uninformed if not simply dishonest. 1,318 more words

History

The Shape of Academic History, Part I: Geography

I used to open my introductory course on pre-modern European history (c.400-1789) with an image that I have come to think of as “History Goes Boom.” It’s evidently from the cover of a History Book Club magazine or catalogue, though when or where it was issued is more than I’ve been able to figure out from the relatively lo-res versions I’ve stumbled across online. 1,724 more words

History

Quo Vadis? Cui bono? History, bullshit, and the corporate university

A public art competition sounds like a good thing, in the abstract. (Thanks, folks, I’ll be here all week.) On the other hand, people like me tend to think that context counts for a lot. 2,223 more words

History

Theses on Academia, Academic Scholarship, and Their Critics

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. 953 more words

History

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”). 1,580 more words

History