Monday, June 15, 2009

Changes in the Historical Profession

Why the Times would be interested in the vagaries of the historical profession I do not know. But I think the cry over the decline of "traditional" fields of history is way overblown. Having just spent half a year reviewing Herring's From Colony to Superpower, a new overview of American foreign policy, I certainly feel that thinking about America's relationship to the world in a strictly diplomatic way has limited value. The article finishes by discussing how one department had to change the hiring line to "US and the World," as if this was a bad thing. Instead, such changes should be embraced, as this, admittedly amorphous, field, has an incredible amount of interesting things to say about how we have related to the world.

As for the rest of the article, it seems to me that legal history is on the rise and I think we are going to see a revival of economic history because of the financial collapse and the interest that has spawned. But ultimately, such an article is really an attack on studying race and gender. That race and gender is somehow disconnected from diplomatic or economic history is absurd, as many young scholars are aware.

Really this is much ado about nothing.