Who Chose to Fail?

There are two articles in the most recent issue of the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History that clearly demonstrate that we academic historians have failed-consistently and spectacularly-in one of our most essential undertakings. For all the talk about making History accessible to a broader public, the value of historical literacy for an educated citizenry and the health of a democracy, we have failed, and seem determined to continue that failure, to provide an adequate grounding in History to one of our main constituencies: college students. Continue reading “Who Chose to Fail?”

On Being Broken, and the Kindness of Others

It’s graduation season all around higher ed, which means the proliferation of all sorts of seasonal trends: smart people wearing silly clothes (“academic drag,” as a colleague calls it), intricately-decorated student mortarboards, and the lilting chorus of air horns as newly-minted graduates stride across the stage. It’s also when we see the deployment of a veritable army of wealthy donors honorary commencement speakers dispensing business-speak bromides to an audience full of slightly dazed graduates, restless children, and what sounds like an outbreak of whooping cough. GOOD TIMES. Continue reading “On Being Broken, and the Kindness of Others”

Middlebury, Murray, and the Problem of False Equivalence

Imagine, if you will, this scene. The university’s annual symposium has begun, an event that promises to advance the mission of the institution by tackling subjects of depth and complexity in the human condition. This year’s theme is “Remembering the Shoah: Saying ‘Never Again’ to Genocide,” challenging students and the university community to confront some of the darkest chapters of modern human history. And now, striding to the podium to deliver the keynote address, comes…David Irving. Irving’s presence was vehemently protested by numerous campus and community organizations, including Hillel and the Anti-Defamation League, but college’s president firmly believes that students should be challenged by opinions “outside their comfort zone.” To those students who protested the fact that a conference on the Holocaust was being keynoted by the most notorious holocaust-denier in the Western world, the local newspaper’s editorial board scoffed at their need for a so-called “safe space.” “The real world doesn’t always conform to your precious beliefs,” the newspaper editorialized; “you’d best learn that now.” One of the university’s professors defended the choice of Irving as a keynote speaker, declaring “nothing is more sacred than the right of free and unfettered academic discourse in the university. In this marketplace of ideas, bad ideas will naturally by subsumed by good ones-that’s how it always works.” 

Continue reading “Middlebury, Murray, and the Problem of False Equivalence”

When States’ Rights were Progressive

As the proverbial blessing and/or curse foretold, we are living in interesting times. The Left finds itself rooting for executive-branch departmental bureaucrats and the Right launched a boycott of Budweiser. I don’t care how politically prescient you are–NO ONE saw this turn of events coming. Continue reading “When States’ Rights were Progressive”

An American Family Story in Ten Parts

1. In 1621, Thomas Prence arrived in Plymouth Colony and claimed “one akre” of land in the new settlement. Thirteen years later, a combination of ambition and a reputation for being one of the most ardent Separatist Puritans in a colony full of Separatist Puritans led to his election as governor, and he would remain a member of Plymouth’s political elite from that point forward. After the 1657 death of William Bradford-Plymouth’s original governor and more than any other man the motor that drove the colony-Prence once again became governor. Continue reading “An American Family Story in Ten Parts”

We Need to Re-Think History Ph.D. Training [#AHA276]

This is the third and final post in a series authored by the participants in the session “Say It Like You Mean It: Graduate Education and Creative Expression in Thinking, Making, and Doing History” held at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association. The intent of our session was to take a deep and discerning look at the ways in which History Ph.D. programs prepare their students for a radically-changed job landscape. As you’ll see in these posts, we take a critical stance towards the status quo, and argue that graduate programs in particular, and the historical profession in general, need to fundamentally re-think the ways in which they train the next generation of professional historians.

For part one of this series, click HERE.

For part two, click HERE.

The following are my session-chair/commentator remarks from this session, lightly edited for clarity and organization. It was a privilege to be a part of this panel with Cody and Eric, and I think they both have profoundly important things to say to both graduate students and graduate programs. I would also like to thank Dara Vance (@divafancypants) for initially proposing this session and thus creating the framework for us to have this conversation. Without her efforts, this session would not have come together, and I am deeply thankful for her invitation to participate.


We all know the job market in History has sucked. If you didn’t, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. This “sucks” status is not new. It sucked when I entered the market back in 2002, and it sucked when I started grad school in 1996 and had a senior faculty member in the department look me in the eye and ask “you sure about this, son?” Continue reading “We Need to Re-Think History Ph.D. Training [#AHA276]”