The Public Work of Historians: Engaging in Discussions

At our recent annual meeting the AHA chose a focus on “the public work of historians” for our plenary session (watch the video of the session). The January issue of Perspectives on History seems to have stimulated the kind of conversation that we as historians need to participate in, and we encourage our members to take a look at a column in Commentary that engages our own commentaries. It’s a sharp piece, which engages with the two of us only to disagree. That’s fine: as we both noted, we know that we don’t have all the answers. We’re hoping that our columns will spark thoughtful discussions of history and historical thinking in as many parts of the blogosphere (and elsewhere) as we can. It looks as if we’ll get our wish.

Tony Grafton, AHA president
Jim Grossman, AHA executive director

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  1. Tim Crawford

    Abraham Lincoln said, “We all declare for Liberty: but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor.” Which of these opposing visions of liberty does the columnist wish historians to teach? The answer is obvious. If are seen on one side of the line a cry goes up for objectivity. When objectivity is the topic we are accused of abandoning our civic duty.