17 April 2012

The Problem With Academic Historians


And why I don't trust many of them . . .

". . . for all its faults, this country has more to be proud of and less to be ashamed of than any other nation on the face of the globe. I did not set out to prove that proposition; my instincts and my research led me to it, and I have *little patience for those who say otherwise.
      Toward the end of the nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth, the writing of history in America became the almost exclusive domain of academicians, with unforeseen consequences. Academic historians wrote monographs on esoteric and **insufferably dull subjects not for an interested public but for an elite of eggheads. They came increasingly to believe that historians must justify their existence by pointing their research and writing toward the furtherance of present public-policy agenda that they regard as desirable, and to insist that historians can behave no other way. That conviction led them to view the past in terms of struggle between good people, whose goals squared with what they regarded as desirable, and bad people, whose goals did not." ~ Forrest McDonald (From the foreword of Recovering the Past: a historians memoir)

* Nor do I. As I grow older, it is becoming more and more difficult to suffer fools.

** As I (and others) have noted here before.

4 comments:

Rob Baker said...

Rolling out the McDonal exceptionalism platform.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

It's actually McDonald, but yes, you're correct - a rollin' we shall go. Thanks for the comment

Rob Baker said...

McDonald* you are correct. Typo.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

No problem. Hit that "d" key harder next time. ;o)