Categories
Teaching

The Importance of Style

Without further comment: The American university teacher who gives honor grades to students who have not yet learned to write English, for industrious compilations of facts or feats of memory, is wanting in professional pride or competence. Samuel E. Morison, History as a Literary Art (1946), 3.

Categories
Academia

When Was Professional History Not Boring?

The current unease about history’s declining fortunes echo an anxiety that has afflicted the profession for nearly a century. This anxiety seems perennially familiar: overly specialized monographs filled with turgid prose are driving away readers, graduate education is doing little to improve the situation, and, consequently, history no longer commands the respect it once did. […]

Categories
Academia

Is Professional History Boring?

I want to return to William Cronon’s “Professional Boredom” from last month’s Perspectives on History and think about how certain aspects of professionalization—especially the practices of professional identity—have excluded audiences for our work. Cronon’s piece has recently been attracting considerable attention. As Timothy Burke put it, “all the cool kids are doing it.” For a […]

Categories
Academia

Whither the Book Review

The first volume of Preternature just arrived in my mailbox. And while I am looking forward to reading the articles, I started as I always do by first turning to the book reviews. Many years ago a mentor convinced me that one of the most important reason to look at journals in the field was […]

Categories
Academia

William Cronon on “Professional Boredom”

William Cronon, the current president of the AHA, knows a lot about how to make history accessible and interesting to non-historians. See his website for some of the ways he moves beyond the narrow sphere of academic history. So when he worries about how the profession defines itself, we should probably take his concerns seriously. […]