Monday, April 30, 2012

Richard H. King on Why I Became a Historian

Randall Stephens

Why are some youngsters fascinated by the past while others don't have the slightest interest in the subject?  (Indeed, quite a few run to the hills at the mere mention of "history.")  What makes some of us into historians?

While I was at the British Association of American Studies meeting at the University of Manchester I had some time to sit down with the historian Richard H. King.  I asked King the same question I've put to other historians: "Why
did you become a historian?" 

King is a prolific author (now emeritus professor of American intellectual history, University of Nottingham). While in grad school at the University of Florida I read his engaging book A Southern Renaissance: The Cultural Awakening of the American South, 1930-1955 (Oxford University Press, 1980).  Along with that volume he is also the author of a number other influential books, including: The Party of Eros: Radical Thought and the Realm of Freedom (Delta, 1972); Civil Rights and the Idea of Freedom (University of Georgia Press, 1996); Race, Culture and the Intellectuals, 1940-1970 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004); and he co-edited Dixie Debates (New York University Press, 1995) with Helen Taylor.

In the interview here, King speaks about his undergraduate experience at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in the early 1960s.  He also talks about the literary and social forces of the day that led him to study the past.

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