One of the many lines of argument in the ongoing debate over David Armitage and Jo Guldi’s The History Manifesto concerns revisions to the work made in the midst of the conversation over it. As readers of this blog probably know, when The History Manifesto appeared last October it was both published as a conventional book and made free for download under a Creative Commons license by its publisher Cambridge University Press. The online version was not merely a more convenient way to access the book. As the Chronicle of Higher Education noted in an April 9 report on the controversy surrounding Armitage and Guldi’s book,
Unlike a traditional book, the online version of The History Manifesto displays some of the interactivity of a massive open online course, or MOOC. It features video content, a blog, a reader forum, event listings, and social-media posts from people who use the hashtag “#historymanifesto” to discuss the book on Twitter.
Armitage and Guldi see this interactivity as an opportunity for their work to improve and evolve in real time, a form of continuous peer review, in which they can respond to their critics in a way that refines their arguments to everyone’s benefit. But to many of those critics, including Deborah Cohen and Peter Mandler, whose exchange with Armitage and Guldi appears in this month’s issue of the American Historical Review, these on-the-fly revisions raise ethical questions. Some, including Lynn Hunt, have questioned how open Armitage and Guldi have been about changes to their text. Armitage and Guldi argue that they’ve been transparent, noting changes on the blog at the book’s website. AHR editor Robert A. Schneider, in the recent Chronicle piece quoted above, suggests that the controversy over these revisions
just alerts us to what is obviously going to be an ongoing question: What is the text? If it’s a changing entity, it creates certain problems that we’re going to have to address about protocol.
Which brings us to professional societies and a central role that I believe they need to play in the near future. (more…)
In a recent Chronicle essay, Thomas Bender asked whether historians “still have a public audience.” Although Bender appreciates all that academic historians have done in the last half-century to broaden the scope of historical inquiry beyond elite political figures, he laments that the larger public ignores us, and claims that the fault is partly our own because we no longer write accessible narratives about the nation. Bender believes that we need our public because “the scholarship of the past couple of generations is too valuable to keep to ourselves.”
Bender’s essay is familiar. Historians have been writing similar jeremiads for decades. And we have also been debating the merits and accuracy of such declension narratives for decades. My point in this essay is not to engage in this seemingly timeless and tireless debate. But rather to point to one area of public engagement open to historians: the public school history curriculum. (more…)
To honor the centennial of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) and its predecessor, the Mississippi Valley Historical Association (MVHA), Richard Kirkendall put together a volume in 2011, titled The Organization of American Historians and the Writing and Teaching of American History. This sheaf of essays included two about the place of intellectual history within the century-long career of the organization, by David Hollinger and James Kloppenberg, respectively. They are fascinating to read together in part because they disagree with one another rather directly, but in a way that is difficult to adjudicate or resolve. (more…)
In the second week of every other month, the U.S. Intellectual History Blog has a Focus Week, during which a number of our bloggers post on a common theme. Since the Organization of American Historians (OAH) is having its 2015 Annual Meeting in St. Louis later this week, we felt that it might be worth exploring the theme of professional societies.
Among the bloggers who’ll be contributing to this conversation will be:
Andy Seal, who’ll post later today about a pair of essays by James Kloppenberg and David Hollinger on intellectual history and the OAH and its predecessor organization, the Mississippi Valley Historical Association, that appeared in Richard Kirkendall’s edited volume The Organization of American Historians and the Writing and Teaching of American History (OUP, 2011).
Andrew Hartman, who’ll be posting on Wednesday about how the OAH and the American Historical Association (AHA) have taken a much more active interest in the public school history curriculum since the 1990s.
Robert Greene, who’ll be posting on Sunday about the Association for the Study of American American Life and History (ASALH).
My guess is that others will contribute as well. Stay tuned!
Kimberly A. Hamlin. From Eve to Evolution: Darwin, Science, and Women’s Rights in Gilded Age America (Chicago University Press, 2014) 238 pages.
Review by Lilian Calles Barger
To address the eternal “woman question,” the emerging modern feminism of the Gilded Age turned to Charles Darwin for answers. In From Eve to Evolution, Kimberly A. Hamlin’s fascinating intellectual history uncovers how the new evolutionary science provided multiple arguments by which women advanced the cause of women’s rights and equality in the home and society. Most of us are familiar with the Enlightenment, religious, and socialist origins of feminist thought. Hamlin suggests another significant strand of thought offered by the science of human origins. She argues that Darwinism, often with varied and unorthodox interpretations, was effective in overturning a central ideological obstacle to women’s equality: the biblical story of Eve. Charles Darwin’s theory, against his own conservative masculinist views, turned traditional views of women upside down. Freethinkers, socialists, and sexologists seized on evolutionary science to build arguments against recalcitrant traditional views. They asserted that the culture of their age was an artificial construct of erroneous ideas and called for change in order to live in accordance with the evolutionary laws of nature. As what Hamlin calls “reform Darwinists,” her subjects stood against social Darwinism, religious teaching, and custom.
[Note to readers: the following is a guest post from Kristen D. Burton, a doctoral candidate in the transatlantic history Ph.D. program at the University of Texas at Arlington. Her dissertation, “That Firey Liquid: How Alcohol Became an Intoxicant in the Early Modern Atlantic World,” examines the influence of Enlightenment thought on perceptions of distilled spirits in Great Britain, North America, and the Caribbean during the eighteenth century.]
Understanding ‘the Unity of the Diverse’:
Sven Beckert on the Entangled History of Cotton, Slavery, and Capitalism
by Kristen D. Burton
On April 3, 2015, the University of Texas at Arlington History Department hosted Sven Beckert – Laird Bell Professor of History at Harvard University – as a part of the Speaker Series on Transatlantic History. Over the course of forty-five minutes, Beckert presented a cascade of intriguing and provocative points from his new book, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014) on the interconnections between the history of cotton, slavery, and capitalism. Beckert explained how his book differs from other studies; specifically, he emphasized how Empire of Cotton uses the history of cotton to analyze the emergence of modern capitalism. (more…)