I’ve been reading Jonathan Zimmerman’s and Emily Robertson’s The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools over the past few weeks. In the course of reading I unexpectedly ran across a concept related to ignorance studies but, heretofore, unmentioned in those works and, yet, important to them. Continue reading
That year Drinan (1920-2007) earned a spot on President Richard Nixon’s famous “enemies list.” Along with his liberal politics, his Catholic background garnered the attention of William F. Buckley, who called Drinan “the greatest threat to orderly thought since Eleanor Roosevelt left this vale of tears.” Continue reading
I’m nearly finished with a full, word-for-word read of Agnotology: The Making & Unmaking of Ignorance. An essay therein that feels most germane to our current political situation is Peter Galison‘s “Removing Knowledge: The Logic of Modern Censorship” (pp. 37-54). The essay focuses on the government’s classification of information since 1945. But Galison’s concerns and themes should trouble those of us living under a presidential administration focused on secrecy and leaks. Continue reading
As a prefatory remark—in order to be abundantly clear—what follows is not about the ignorance OF history. While some of the points below cross over and apply in certain ways to knowledge deficits in history, the focus here is on talking about moments and formations of ignorance in history. The operative question is this: How do we conceive of, and talk about, moments of perceived ‘ignorance’ in history?
In many of my conversation circles, confessions of ignorance constitute a moral failing. Continue reading
In early March of this year, the AHA’s Sadie Bergen reached out to members of the S-USIH blog community for help understanding the history of history blogs. Bergen was working on an article for Perspectives. The original prompt focused on the work that goes into producing a collaborative blog, contributions from graduate students and early career historians, and “how blog writing fits into the work of being a historian today.” I don’t know how many of us replied to Bergen’s inquiry, but I did. In retrospect, my answers only helped with part of the prompt—which probably explains why only a brief quote from me made it into Bergen’s final piece (do read it!). That said, and to be fair with myself, Bergen’s more specific follow-up questions caused me to think more about the history of this blog and S-USIH generally. With Bergen’s permission, I’ve reproduced those questions and my answers below. Caveat: These are my answers alone. Other long-time S-USIH members will most certainly provide other perspectives. – TL
Bergen: What led you to start the USIH blog? What was the experience like getting it off the ground? For instance, how did you recruit contributors? [Also,] where were you in your career when you began the blog and how did you fit your work for it into your other professional responsibilities?
I want to thank everyone who has been following along, but with today’s entry I regret to report that I have to close the book club earlier than anticipated. What follows is an explanation coupled with some brief thoughts on chapters 11-12. Continue reading
In the interest of expediency—due to the fact that I’m covering five chapters (252 pages)—this installment will follow a mechanical format. I’ll be concentrating on facts and highlights instead of constructing a review narrative with lots of reflection. I hope to resume that format next week. Continue reading
Tonight I began a six-week session leading a Newberry Library seminar on Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. I’m pleased to report that the course is full. Twenty-two people voluntarily signed up to explore a 54-year-old work of intellectual history. And even the waitlist is eleven-deep. Yes, I’m bragging a bit. It’s because I’ve never had so much enthusiasm for one of my seminar offerings. It’s exciting.
But the excitement comes at a time when my relationship with the book has never been more complicated. Continue reading
I’m a sucker for any historical reading related to the Enlightenments in Europe and America. Why? The expansion of knowledge. The romance of scientific discovery. New ways of thinking about religion. Skepticism about received values and traditions. Belief, however naive, in the ideas of progress and reason. Beyond the topics and ideas, it’s also the outstanding figures: Voltaire, Montesquieu, Denis Diderot, Francis Bacon, John Locke, Isaac Newton, David Hume, René Descartes, Immanuel Kant, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and on and on. Continue reading
These chapters, meaning three and four, were hard for this modern Americanist. I’m a post-Civil War historian with broad interests, but reading the historical details from English events and people dating from the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), the English Civil War (1642-1651), Restoration (1660-1688), and Glorious Revolution tested my professional patience. Continue reading