Historians love the past. They delve into it with a passion that bemuses the non-practitioner. The world expects this of historians--that they should be the keepers of the sacred events and great leaders of other eras. From among vast collections of documents and photographs, maps and artifacts, scholars piece together the patterns of earlier societies and the people who lived in them. They pore over military strategies, tariff lists, and election returns to explain how one nation thrived as another declined, why one army triumphed as another collapsed. If the general population evinces only mild interest in the details of these endeavors, it remains assured that our formal historical legacy is carefully preserved.
Yet, while the world was not watching, historians altered the boundaries of their professional love to encompass a much broader and more vibrant definition of history. Historians have expanded the scope of their scholarship beyond the arena of yesterday's governments and public figures to a more inclusive worldview that considers the impact of lesser-known people in the emergence of a society's heritage. Women, children, ethnic groups, minority cultures, everyday life, the nameless and the faceless--these constitute the lively new ingredients in historical research. Not only have these themes gained currency among scholars, but they have attracted the interest of all manner of citizens, who finally seem to understand that history need not be the exclusive province of academicians.
The result has been an explosion of publication that not only peels back the layers of our nation's history, revealing rich new textures, but stimulates discussion among scholars and non- scholars alike. It is this latter group that has so energized history