CHE: Why I’m Not Joining ‘Historians Against Trump’

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    I’m not surprised that one of Fidel Castro’s henchman would have a soft spot for Trump.Report

  2. Avatar PD Shaw
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    says:

    I scanned the list of historians against Trump and didn’t find as many history professors as I would have thought. Out of 786 signatories, there are 244 professors, with 64 of these emeritus/emerita almost exclusively professors, as well as 78 who are retired, some of which are professors. Many professors are not history professors, and the list contains attorneys, environmental mangers, social workers and writers. (This may be because the original list was opened to people to join later, but the first 771 names are in alphabetical order, suggesting they were original signatories)

    There also appear to be few history professors from elite schools, and without wanting to disparage any college or professor by name, I’ve not heard of many of these colleges. All in all, it seems like a fairly marginal enterprise.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to PD Shaw
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      says:

      This CHE article is the first I’ve heard of Historians Against Trump, but I think I agree with your analysis. Not that I’m really a bona fide member of the profession, but I recognized only one name on that list. Or, it’s someone who shares the same name as a former student of mine…I have no idea if it’s the same person.

      Some of the names I might have expected to sign up did not, although that could be a function of the “movement” not getting much publicity.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        I could say some things about historians here, but they’d range from crude to cruel. Perhaps I’d better not.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        My understanding from people in the field is that there are, in a kinda-sorta way, two sets of historians today.

        The first set is what we lay people tend to think of when as “historians”: PhD in history, working at a college or university doing research in a highly specialized category. This set stays out of politics professionally, even if they don’t personally. So for example, they have no professional skin in the game of how Founding Father X would vote in various modern elections and litmus tests. If you do a lot of internet skimming on self-titled history blogs with posts that primarily about things like Kim Davis or Hilary Clinton’s email server or why George Washington would have banned/not banned Muslim refugees today, odds you are not reading people from this set.

        The second set is more of a hodgepodge of history buffs, who may or may not have PhDs but aren’t really working alongside the set above. It’s common in this set to find people who majored or received their PhDs in things like women’s studies, seminary, poli-sci, education, law, or other well respected academic pursuits. Their primary role is to use their personal study of history as a tool to debate current cultural and political issues. If your tastes in reading about history means that you occasionally purchase and peruse, say the Journal of the American Antiquarian Society Journal of the Early Republic, then chances are you are not following this group.Report

        • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Tod Kelly
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          says:

          I’d say there are a lot of people in the first group who share traits with those in the second group, in that they see their scholarship as advocacy for a certain cause, usually the cause of a marginalized people or something social justice-y because they adhere to professional standards to which most of their colleagues do. But those colleagues are split on methodology (cultural historians vs. those who claim to “do only empircal research”).

          I personally have a very wide definition of who counts as a historian, mostly because I want to get away from credentialism of saying that you need a PHD to do it.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to PD Shaw
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      says:

      I confess, I peeked just to see if my sister was on the list.Report

  3. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    Funny thing about titles, there are actually very few professions where there is some kind of governing body that issues & validates a title.

    I mean, there are Doctors of Chiropractic, or Homeopathy, who have neither a PhD or an MD, they probably don’t even have a BS.

    Last I checked, anyone can call themselves a historian, and the History police won’t come get them (although the History channel will probably call…)Report

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