Another Civil War blogger recently lamented the absence of history books published by academic presses in a bookstore.
You've got to be kidding me. Unlike faculty lounges, bookstores must operate in the real world of profit and loss, cause and effect, etc. These establishments don't choose the titles they sell based on what academic historians think is "acceptable" (Politically Correct) for consumption by the American public. They choose their titles based on what the American public is buying and wants to read.
This is not to say there aren't excellent books published by academic presses. My favorite most recent read is David Johnson's excellent biography of John Randolph of Roanoke published by Louisiana State University Press.
So, why doesn't the American public choose more academic press titles to read more often? There are reasons you know. There is a cause and effect involved. I'll let others answer the question.
"The problem with academic historians is they are not reaching a wide popular audience," Shoaf said. He said there is a need for factual, well-researched historical articles that are moderately priced and appeal to the masses. Shoaf said that in his business, people often are reluctant to read social history because they think it is boring. They want articles about battles, but Shoaf said they like social history if they aren’t aware that’s what they are reading." ~ Dana Shoaf, editor of Civil War Times and consulting editor of America’s Civil War magazines.Reason #1: They think it is boring.
And . . .
. . . they're so badly written. They're boring! Historians are never required to write for people other than historians." ~ David McCullough (McCullough is referring here specifically to textbooks, but the same is often true for the dry, boring tomes written by academic historians and published by academic presses.)Reason #2: They're poorly written. They are boring. They target the wrong audience (if they want to sell books).
And . . .
What most frustrates Americans is that we are a happy, optimistic, can-do people ceaselessly harangued by media solons, delusional academics, post-sovereign Eurocrats, and the Democrats who love them. While we free and feed the world, they can’t tell us enough that we’re racist, imperialist, torturing louts. We know it’s a libel, an endless stream of slander. But we also know it’s an absurd libel. We’re tired of hearing it, but taking it too seriously would give it power it doesn’t deserve. ~ Andrew McCarthy (Emphasis mine.)Reason #3: Many Americans are tired of the condescending, self-hatred of our history being shoved down their throats.
And . . .
There was a time, not long ago, when students were required to study the great events, magnanimous statesmen, brave warriors, brilliant inventors and ingenious industrialists of American history. There was a time when American students knew in intimate detail the heroic story of the American Revolution and the tragedy of the Civil War.
American children once learned about honesty from George Washington, justice from Thomas Jefferson, integrity from John Adams, independence from Daniel Boone, oratory from Daniel Webster, ingenuity from Thomas Edison, perseverance from the Wright Brothers and courage from Sergeant York. They learned and memorized the principles of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Gettysburg Address. American history was taught as a grand story of epic scale and heroic accomplishment. America's history was the history of freedom.Reason #4: Americans don't want their children being taught to be ashamed of America, America's founding and their ancestors.
Today, our children are being taught to be ashamed of America. By denigrating the principles and great deeds of America's past and dethroning its heroes, today's college professors are destroying in our youths the proper reverence for the ideals for which this nation stands. And a nation that hates itself cannot last. ~ Professor C. Bradley Thompson
And, as always . . .
The inequalities of race and gender now permeate much of academic history-writing, so much so that the general reading public that wants to learn about the whole of our nation’s past has had to turn to history books written by nonacademics who have no Ph.D.s and are not involved in the incestuous conversations of the academic scholars. . . . Since these historians are not really interested in the origins of the nation, they have difficulty writing any coherent national narrative at all, one that would account for how the United States as a whole came into being. ~ Professor Gordon S. WoodReason #5: Americans want coherency in reading about American history; not preachy, holier-than-thou, politically correct, moral reformer gobbledygook written to impress other left-leaning historians.
Note these are not my words--though I do agree with the overall conclusions. These are the observations and opinions of respected historians and writers. Disagree if you like, but don't attempt the shallow, ad hominem attacks.
So, what's the take-away here? Well to put it rather bluntly, the American public seems to believe--broadly speaking--that academic written and published history books suck. And it's hard to sell books that suck. This is the fundamental reason why many bookstores don't carry history books published by academic presses.
A number of academic related history bloggers will no doubt continue in their denial (or ignorance); but the marketplace (the American public) has judged their product and found it wanting. That's the reality. Deal with it.