Note from the Editor

By Kaetz, James P. | National Forum, Summer 1997 | Go to article overview

Note from the Editor


Kaetz, James P., National Forum


IN THIS ISSUE

With the approach of the new millennium, it is not surprising that many groups and individuals have begun to take stock of their histories. Recent controversies over such things as the National History Standards, the Enola Gay exhibit at the Smithsonian, Disney's plan to build a Civil War theme park in Virginia, and films such as Ken Burn's The Civil War have sparked new interest in the United States about things historical. Thus we thought it was a good time for National Forum to devote an issue to what historians do, which is to research and write history. We gave our authors free rein to discuss whatever they wanted to in their areas of expertise, with an eye toward explaining something about how and why they "do" history. The result is an interesting mix of meditations on a range of subjects.

Needless to say, the gaps in what we have managed to cover are huge; we could devote three issues to the subject and still not cover everything going on in the field today. In particular, we lack articles on several vital areas of minority and regional histories. Perhaps a second issue devoted to these topics is needed to fill in some of these gaps. In the keynote essay, Linda Kerber, the current president of the Organization of American Historians, presents an inclusive overview of these areas to explain why such fields are absolutely crucial to the vitality of the study of history today and in the future. In her essay, Professor Kerber explains how in the past "opinionative assurance" stifled entire fields of historical research by assuming that some groups of people simply had not done anything and thus were not important enough to be studied.

Next, Gary Nash gives us the ultimate insider's view of the controversy over the National History Standards. As the codirector of the History Standards project, he was in the eye of the storm when the standards were first published. In this article he discusses the misconceptions and misrepresentations about how the standards came into being; they actually were the product of a huge collaborative effort among hundreds of history teachers and academics at all levels. Elisabeth Israels Perry then discusses how she came to the field of women's history through the long journey of writing a biography of her grandmother, Belle Moskowitz, who was an "unofficial advisor" to Al Smith during his governorship and later his presidential candidacy. In a piece sure to be of interest to the legions of Civil War buffs out there, David Madden discusses how the United States Civil War Center plans to make that terrible conflict come alive as we draw closer to the Sesquicentennial of the war. He advocates complete interdisciplinary studies of the war to make it relevant to people in all walks of life and in all professions.

In a slightly different vein, Sarah Weddington discusses the idea of making history with her personal story of the Roe v. …

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