McCormick of Rutgers: Scholar, Teacher, Public Historian

By Michael J. Birkner | Go to book overview
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PREFACE
1.
Michael Kammen, In the Past Lane: Historical Perspectives on American Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), chap. 1. Kammen notes that even when scholars of the pre-1960s generation wrote autobiographies—he cites the examples of Arthur Schlesinger, Sr., John D. Hicks, Roy F. Nichols, Thomas F. Bailey, and Dexter Perkins—they tended to “incredible blandness” about personal lives and motives in writing History. To this list one can add McCormick, whose reflection piece published in the William and Mary Quarterly in 1989 (“A Historian’s Education”) offers few nuggets for the biographer to chew on. Nonetheless, there are signs that senior historians are beginning to talk about their careers. A series of lectures sponsored and published by the American Council of Learned Societies beginning in 1983 has focused on personal perspectives on a life of learning. The series includes lectures by several leading historians, among them Carl Schorske, John Hope Franklin, and Natalie Zemon Davis. For more than a decade, the William and Mary Quarterly has periodically published reminiscences by scholars under the heading, “Early American Emeriti.” [See, for example, “Early American Emeriti, III,” Third Series, 52 (July 1995): 453–512. Ten distinguished early Americanists, including Edwin Gaustad, Benjamin Labaree, and Alfred Young, reflected on their lives and work.] For an example of oral history as a vehicle for capturing memories, focused on the “Wisconsin School” of radical history, see Henry Abelove et al., eds., Visions of History (New York: Pantheon Books, 1983).

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