On the cover of the December issue of Perspectives is a 1948 political cartoon about that year’s presidential election. Far less iconic than the photo of the victorious candidate holding aloft a newspaper headlining his loss—“DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN”—Clifford Berryman’s depiction of a gloating Thomas Dewey and an aghast Harry Truman was published about two weeks before the election. “Poll: All Over but the Shouting,” reads one of the notices Truman confronts. The cartoon foreshadows the data obsession and the complacency of many pundits of 2016.
It’s fair to say that historians have assimilated the so-called digital turn in at least some aspects of their work. Many now know how to teach students the critical use of Wikipedia and no longer seek to ban it outright. Some who are fortunate enough to work at institutions with dedicated lab spaces have learned about digital tools available to them in teaching and research. At a minimum, most historians expect some primary sources relevant to their work to be available online.
Sporting a T-shirt reading “I Was a Lesbian Child,” a young woman grasping a handful of helium balloons gazes out from the cover of the new issue of Perspectives on History. Taken in New York City in 1992, Donna Binder’s photograph of an action by an activist group known as the Lesbian Avengers reminds us that efforts to make curricula inclusive have a history.
Like the scent of fresh school supplies, Perspectives on History is back for fall. We’re proud to present our big September issue, featuring a special section, Perspectives on Democracy. Because the topic is far from specific to the United States, and certainly transcends our current presidential campaign, we gathered six historians to tackle it from points of view the world over. Our specialists include AHA past president Barbara Weinstein (Brazil), Peter Zarrow (China), Emily Lord Fransee (Senegal), Charlotte Lydia Riley (United Kingdom), Ramnarayan Rawat (India), and Johann N.
Mixtapes contained tiny archives. In the heyday of the portable cassette—which overlapped with King Vinyl before the great extinction-by-compact-disc of the 1980s—they allowed DJs and freestyle rappers to circulate their work to a micropublic. Unlike Grateful Dead concert bootlegs (which also united a public), mixtapes put individual virtuosity at the center of their aesthetic. As cassettes saturated suburban bedrooms and tape decks became fixtures in cars, young music fans created mixtapes for their own pleasure and to exchange with peers. Today, hip-hop artists still drop mixtapes (making new tracks or remixes available for download), and cassettes are fixtures in many prisons.
The unofficial slogan of the American Historical Association is “Everything has a history.” Introduced by executive director James Grossman in the December 2015 issue of Perspectives, the phrase now appears on staff business cards and, in its hashtag form, has begun to spread on Twitter. As Grossman put it, “Instead of lamenting the decline of public intellectuals, I propose that most historians ought to be capable of functioning in public arenas, ought to be capable of at least reminding our neighbors that everything has a history.”
The April issue of Perspectives on History arrives near the end of the academic year, when many historians are neck-deep in metrics—grades, course evaluations, funding allocations, and more. So it’s appropriate that several stories in this month’s Perspectives address modes of measurement and their implications.
By Allison Miller
An open file cabinet graces the cover of this month’s Perspectives on History. As an illustration for our cover story—a brief for the power of academic administration to further knowledge production—it’s apt enough.