Categories
Academia

History Beyond the Walls of the Academy

As Adrian Bingham points out in his recent post, Is anyone listening? History and public policy, historians have not been terribly successful in contributing their expertise to debates beyond the walls of the academy. The recent overhaul of the history curriculum in England illustrates this point, as do the new science curriculum standards in the […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

Scientists Prove that Herodotus Lied

Flushed with their success in proving when the Iliad was written, scientists have now proven that Herodotus’s Histories do not necessarily reflect universal practices and timeless truths. A pair of anthropologists recently compared Herodotus’s account of Egyptian embalming practices to some scholarly descriptions of and a handful of their own CT scans of surviving mummies. […]

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Historical Expertise

David Nutt is Wrong …

Unfortunately, as David Nutt’s recent comments indicate, journalists, audiences, and scientists themselves too readily assume that universal authority and knowledge inhere science.[1] Expertise in a specific technical scientific domain is readily equated with expertise in general. Knowledge in one domain, however, does not in itself demostrate knowledge in another. According to The Independent and Reuters […]

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Press and Pop Culture

Assassin’s Creed and Historical Fidelity

What liberties should video games take with the historical record and who gets to decide? Or, as some of the people interviewed in “Are Video Games like Assassin’s Creed Rewriting History?” suggest, is there no meaningful historical record beyond the interpretations that we put forward? A commonplace—“History is no longer a set of disputable, footnoted […]

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Academia

It’s About Domains of Expertise

Some great suggestions on Cleaning Up Science but some questionable history of science: In the long run, science is self-correcting. Ptolemy’s epicycles were replaced by Copernicus’s heliocentric system. Well, not really. Copernicus replaced the equant and freely used eccentrics and epicycles for purposes of calculation. See Robert Westman, The Copernican Question (2011), 215. (Or, see […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

What Killed King Tut, Another Guess

A new article claims yet again to have discovered the disease that killed King Tutankhamun: Familial Epilepsy in the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt’s 18th Dynasty (probably behind a paywall, so see this report or this one). Diagnosing King Tut’s illness is a favorite pasttime amongst scientists and physicians, see these claims and more here. This […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

Should Science Writers Read Historical Material?

A recent article in the Guardian asked once again: “Should science journalists read the papers on which their stories are based?” This article grew out of debate at the Royal Institution “Scientists and journalists need different things from science” (see the storify version of that debate). Apparently there was considerable disagreement about whether or not […]

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
Historical Expertise

R. G. Collingwood on Historical Practice

In my efforts to articulate what makes history distinct from other disciplines I have started reading some older literature on the philosophy of history. Although this literature is no longer in vogue, it might still be relevant in distinguishing history from non-history. I am focusing on historical methods and practices because I think these will […]

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. […]