Profs Stage Coup against Status Quo

By Sands, David R. | Insight on the News, June 1, 1998 | Go to article overview

Profs Stage Coup against Status Quo


Sands, David R., Insight on the News


A group of historians have mounted a challenge to postmodern orthodoxy that some say determines who gets ahead in their profession.

Marc Trachtenberg refers to it as his "John Belushi letter," the manifesto that signaled his alienation from many of his colleagues.

The year was 1982, and the historian from the University of Pennsylvania was attending the annual convention of the American Historical Association, or AHA. There, at the profession's largest gathering, he criticized a resolution supporting a unilateral U.S. freeze on nuclear weapons.

"It had a long list of `whereases' about the weapons industry and war that I knew from my own research were completely absurd," he recalls. "I wrote a letter in opposition that started out reasonably and, like Belushi in the old Saturday Night Live skits, got more and more worked up and emotional as it went along. I think I got one letter in support."

Now Trachtenberg and some of the nation's most distinguished historians from across the political spectrum have banded together to challenge both the AHA and what they see as prevailing but wrongheaded assumptions undergirding their profession. Such assumptions dictate the direction of historical research and teaching, as well as the role of politics, ideology and identity in the writing of history.

Their new group, the Historical Society, "will be a place in which significant historical subjects are discussed and debated sharply and frankly in an atmosphere of civility, mutual respect and common courtesy," according to a statement of principles released by the organizers during a media event at Washington's National Press Club in late April. "All we require is that participants lay down plausible premises; reason according to the canons of logic; appeal to evidence; and prepare to exchange criticism with those who hold different points of view."

The Historical Society is not rebelling "against the new subject matter" concerning race, sexuality and gender in history, notes founding president Eugene D. Genovese, a professor of Southern history [see "Genoveses Try to Alter the Course of History Teaching," p. 20]. "What we do object to is an imposed ideological line of any kind," he says, "and the compartmentalized research being done these days that is more an exercise in self-expression than an effort to deal with objective reality."

Yale University's Donald Kagan, a professor and author of a four-volume history of ancient Greece's Peloponnesian War, puts it more plainly He says a "crust of dull conformity" has created an inbred profession with little relevance beyond the university gates. "Historians should be having a constantly revolutionary effect on American society if they were doing their job," says Kagan. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Profs Stage Coup against Status Quo
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.