Friday, May 4, 2012

Roundup on the History Profession and Historians at Work

Theo Emery, "Map’s Hidden Marks Illuminate and Deepen Mystery of Lost Colony," NYT, May 3, 2012

For centuries, the Tidewater coast of North Carolina has held one of early America’s oldest secrets: the fate of more than 100 English colonists who vanished from their island outpost in the late 1500s. . . .

The shroud of mystery may finally be lifting. The British Museum’s re-examination of a 16th-century coastal map using 21st-century imaging techniques has revealed hidden markings that show an inland fort where the colonists could have resettled after abandoning the coast.>>>

John Fea, "Some Thoughts on David Barton's Appearance on the Daily Show With Jon Stewart" Way of Improvement Leads Home, May 2, 2012

About one year ago, David Barton, the Christian Right activist and politician who writes about the past, appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  I blogged extensively about his appearance.  You can read the multi-part series here.

Last night Barton was back on The Daily Show to promote his new book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson.  Here are a few of my thoughts about the interview (and the extended web interview).

William Cronon, "Breaking Apart, Putting Together: Analysis or synthesis: which should we prefer?" Perspectives on History (May 2012)

Is it better to explore tightly bounded specialized topics by asking small unasked questions that can be answered as rigorously as possible, combining previously unknown primary documents and technical arguments in original ways whether or not they ultimately matter very much? Or is it better to range widely across the historical landscape, borrowing insights from secondary sources to make large claims, relying even on documents everyone already knows to pursue big familiar questions which however unanswerable, we all recognize to be undeniably important?>>>

Lincoln Mullen, "Reading ‘History as a Literary Art,’" Chronicle blog, April 30, 2012

When I was an undergraduate taking a class on writing history, and again when I was a graduate student, a professor assigned me to read Samuel Eliot Morison’s essay “History As a Literary Art.” Morison, more than most, was a credible source of writing advice. When he wrote the essay in 1946 he had already won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Christopher Columbus, Admiral of the Ocean Sea. By the end of his life, he would pick up another Pulitzer and two Bancroft Prizes. Morison was a professional historian, but he wrote squarely in the tradition of amateur, literary historians like Francis Parkman—perhaps unsurprisingly, since both were Boston blue bloods.>>>

Audrey Williams June, "Aging Professors Create a Faculty Bottleneck: At some universities, 1 in 3 academics are now 60 or older," Chronicle, March 18, 2012

When Mary Beth Norton went to work at Cornell University in 1971, she was the history department's first female hire. But now the accomplished professor has a different mark of distinction: She is the oldest American-history scholar at Cornell.>>>


csccat said...

I'm not buying the argument that faculty over 60 are crowding out new Ph.D.'s. That may be the case at prestigious Research I's like Cornell. My experience in the lesser regions of the academic world don't bear this out,especially in the Liberal Arts. Retirements by senior faculty are not being replaced at the same rate, if at all. Senior faculty at my uni are not retiring because they know that the department's offerings will be significantly reduced. When they have retired (or died), departments have been left with huge curricular holes. Full disclosure: I'm a not-quite 50, mid-career academic. I'd love to have new, dynamic Ph.D.s as my colleagues, but I'm next expecting my university to replace the three faculty we have lost anytime soon.

Randall said...

I have heard that has been a trend, cutting spots left by older retiring faculty. Interesting. Discouraging.