14 November 2015

Who Coined the Term, "Activist Historian"?


Someone recently sent me a link to a popular Civil War blog where the host made this comment:
. . . “activist historians,” a term coined by a few unhappy right-of-center blogger. . .
I really don't know who coined the term originally. I suspect this blogger may have had me in mind when posting. In any event, I cannot take credit. I started using the term here because another Civil War blogger once used it in a comment on his blog to describe himself.

Just wanted to make sure proper credit was given.

7 comments:

ropelight said...

Candid conceptualization.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Yes, perfect in so many ways.

cenantua said...

While I used it only months ago, I don't think I coined it. It's the reaction that makes me chuckle... the automatic assumption that those who use it are unhappy and right of center. Funny how everything seems, to some, align with political posturing. What's the saying? Assuming makes an... well, you know.

What's really pathetic, however, is the inability to look at the phrase and reconsider themselves and how they use history... or cherry-pick... to forward an agenda. There's this cry for people to understand the complexities of history, and yet, out of the other side of the mouth, a rhetoric that ignores that complexity. I guess it's easiest to respond with mockery than to respond responsibly.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

" There's this cry for people to understand the complexities of history, and yet, out of the other side of the mouth, a rhetoric that ignores that complexity."

Precisely. Thanks for the comment Robert.

Historicus Pro Vitae said...

While not falling into the same radical camp as the blogger who so not-so-subtly called you out (as he tends to do quite often), I do think there is a place for activism in the discipline of history.

For those interested, I offer the following thoughts:


http://historicusprovita.com/2015/02/06/the-historian-as-activist-some-thoughts/

&

http://historicusprovita.com/2015/02/11/the-webster-brief-or-how-not-to-be-a-historian-activist/

BorderRuffian said...

Levin didn't use that exact phrase but did say of his blog-
"I like to think that my own research on Civil War memory is in a way a form of activism."
http://cwmemory.com/2007/06/11/meeting-john-hope-franklin/

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

I think Levin's characterization of his own "activism" in that post is inaccurate. Thanks for the link though. I have the actual quote somewhere.