The June issue of Historically Speaking is now up at Project Muse. (We couldn't be more pleased with the terrific work the Muse people are doing. Readers can finally consistently read HS on-line. Scanning back issues is now in the works.)
The June issue includes a lively forum on Charles Joyner's classic Down by the Riverside. It also contains interviews and the usual fare of insightful essays.
In "The Art of History" popular historian Ian Mortimer throws down the gauntlet. Academic historians, in his estimation, don't care all that much about writing, narrating, and dramatic story telling. "Most professional historians do not understand the art of history," he asserts. "Quite what constitutes the 'art' seems to be the problem. Is it originality of thought, a distinct literary voice, innovative writing, sensitivity to public perceptions and assumptions about the past, or clarity of expression? Or something else entirely? Whatever the answer, these suggestions by themselves indicate that some of the activities associated with the 'art' do not figure prominently in university departments. Literary skill is almost always downgraded by academics to a supplementary role—supporting an analytical process but always subordinate to it. Originality is surprisingly rarely valued in academic circles: when it is most clearly displayed, it often proves to be the catalyst for its protagonist to be declared a 'maverick.' No historical departments (as far as I know) encourage their members to be sensitive to public perceptions and assumptions. Few historians have actively explored what drama, suspense, and literary conceits can add to a narrative. Creative writing is never discussed in historical journals, even though it is implicit in the very act of writing something new. All in all, historians seem generally oblivious to the basic fact that when expressing ideas about the past, the way one writes is as important as what one writes."
I disagree with Mortimer about some of these assumptions. Seems too broad a generalization, I think. Still I find it an interesting, provocative take. See Donald A. Yerxa's interview with Mortimer in the June issue for more on the subject.
Historically Speaking (June 2010)
"Two Historians on Defeat in War and Its Causes"
"U.S. Expansion and the Woman Question, 1870-1929"
"Ian Mortimer: Making History More Meaningful to Society"
"The Art of History"
"In Search of New Narrative Frameworks: An Interview with Ian Mortimer"
Conducted by Donald A. Yerxa
"Creolization in and Beyond Charles Joyner’s Down by the Riverside: A South Carolina Slave Community A Panel Discussion"
"Learning from Charles Joyner"
David Hackett Fischer
"The Influence of Down by the Riverside"
Sylvia R. Frey
"Two Journeys: Honoring Charles Joyner"
"Creolization, Decreolization, and Being 'at Home' in the Diaspora"
Stephanie J. Shaw
"Writing Historical Crime Novels: An Interview with Jenny White"
Conducted by Donald A. Yerxa
"Prince Henry of Portugal and the Sea Route to India"
"Faith and the Founding of Virginia"
Vivian R. Gruder
"In Grateful Memory of Max Palevsky, 1924-2010"