Making Pete Carmichael Happy

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the Future of Civil War History conference.  Others have as well, such as Nick Sacco finishing his thoughts here, Brooks Simpson concluding his initial reflections here (along with excellent comments by John Hennessy and Anne Whisnant), and here, and Kevin Levin reflecting very thoughtfully here on his view.

Where Pete Carmichael would be happy is that I’m ending up more confused.  Pete very famously says he likes it when his students are more confused after class than before class.  Well, Pete, you should be ecstatic right now.  First of all, I’m confused about what the conference was about.  Was it about discussing what the study of Civil War History would look like in the future?  Was it about new sources and new tools?  Was it about public and academic historians coming together to sing Kumbaya?  Was it about changing the way the war is viewed or interpreted?  I can hear Pete now saying, “Like art, it was about what it meant to you, and each person will have a different answer.”  Aaagh!

I’m also confused about some of the discussion that’s taking place since the conference–is there a split between academic and public historians?  Or is the perception there’s a split a myth?  Or was there a split at one point that’s been healed?  Or does the split still exist beneath the surface of what we think is a healed rupture?

I’m confused about why some of the presenters chose to say what they said.  I mean, come on.  Why all the talk about “martial masculinity” and what I gather were some second wave feminism buzz words.  But my confusion here could come from my unfamiliarity with the material.  I’m going to order some reading material to deal with that.  And why did the panelists in the discussion on military misconceptions not talk about military misconceptions?

None of this confusion is meant as criticism, because I haven’t changed my position that the conference was a positive experience.  The more I think about it, though, the more questions I have.  I’ve already decided I need to delve more deeply into Freeman Tilden and his principles of interpretation for one thing.  For another thing, I need a better grounding in historical methods.

As I think more about this, hopefully I’ll come up with some conclusions I feel happy about.  Do you have any answers?

33 comments

  1. There is a major split between public history and academic history. I think a lot of it has to do with their audiences and writing style. Academic writing tends to be stale and for some very hard to read. This has shoved away many potentials readers. It is very clear from the NPS visitor counts that there is a tremendous interest in our nation’s history. In fact, our history shows a huge interest in our history which is inspiring. The problem is that we as historians and educators have to be able to reach our audiences. Academic historians tend to miss the large audience with their method of writing.

    Personally I think we’re going to have to change the way we reach out to audiences through media. The Internet is the biggest way of doing that as Kevin Levin pointed out. If we don’t make a concerted effort to reach that audience in that manner, then there are plenty of bad history sites that will be available. The Heritage Instead of History groups are proof of that. The general public isn’t buying the academic historians’ books for a lot of reasons. They are however still reading about history and doing a lot of that online. We have to get together and generate history that is readable by the public and easily found by them.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Jimmy. I’ve heard it said that academics (and we’re lumping a lot of people into that bucket, so the sweeping generalization is probably way off) tend to write for other academics. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions to this. Brooks’ books are very readable to the average person and still adhere to the highest standards of scholarship. The same goes for Gary Gallagher, Pete Carmichael, and Prof. Robertson. Of course, they all have tenure (and in Prof. Robertson’s case is retired) and can write what they want. Can the young historian just starting out write a book that the public wants to read and not hurt their career? There seems to be an impression, and I don’t know how accurate it is, that “academia” frowns on work that is readable and tends to prefer work that is not only dry and unreadable but also obscure, the more obscure the better. There’s another impression that “academia” looks down its collective nose at books that sell well, labeling those books as “popular history” no matter how rigorous the scholarship in them. And yet, aren’t historians supposed to reach as many people as possible? The public historian wants to reach out to the nonhistorian public and bridge that gap. So there is a disconnect with the image many have of academia and the public historian. At what point is perception reality?

      Neither group is a monolith, and so each group has people on a continuum of viewpoints. So on the one hand we have folks saying there is no problem between the groups, and they may be exactly correct for what they see. On the other hand, we have others who say there’s a huge split between the groups, and they may be exactly correct for what they see. I keep sensing an underlying tension, so I don’t think simply declaring things are great between the groups is a satisfactory long-term course of action. If there are differences, I think they need to be hashed out and there should be mutual understanding of each other.

      1. I teach at Hofstra Law School. As in many academic settings, writing for scholarly journals is one of the most significant factors in advancement. A study a few years ago found that less than a third of all law journal articles are ever cited In print. Only 15percent were ever cited in a published court decision. My feeling is that few people ever read these articles, most of them contain materials that even professionals in the field find useless, and that within days of publication they are forgotten by everyone but the author. Meanwhile materials directed at helping the public understand the laws, particularly those aimed at the poor, are often devalued in promotion.

        I was listening to Clare Potter who writes the Tenured Radical blog. While she extolled blogging, she said that it does not meet the requirements for tenure. She seemed to accept this, but I wondered why. Being a public intellectual or public historian does not have to be confined to books, battlefields, or museums. If an academic is providing value to the public on a blog, why is that not as valuable as an article no one reads in a journal published a year after the article is written. Clare Potter explained that this was because a blog is not peer reviewed. So why not review it post-publication? Some will be worthless, just like some dissertations, and that can be factored in.

        1. Interesting point, Pat. I would expect the answer would be that if it’s reviewed post-publication, how do you prevent errors? The author would, I suppose, not be under any obligation to correct any errors found during the review, and who’s to say the reviewer’s comments would be seen by those who read the blog entry? Perhaps there could be a peer-reviewed blog operated by each university. That would be an explosion in the number of places one could publish right off the bat.

          1. The impetus to prevent error (and reduce hyperbole) is the fact that you may submit it as part of a tenure portfolio. Errors could be detected by the interaction of other academics reading the blog. The author could not be “forced” to make corrections, but failure to do so would negatively impact the evaluation.

          2. That may do at one level. What happens if the individual already has tenure? Are there any sanctions?

        2. The general public doesn’t pay attention to peer reviewed statuses. Nor do they really look at book reviews all that much. They tend to read what they want. So if academics think peer review is going to be the standard and the reason why they won’t get online then they’re just erecting a roadblock instead of working to solve the problem. Here’s what I think should be readily apparent to them. More people read more information on the Internet than they do books written by academic historians. The academic historians are marginalizing themselves with their attitude.

          1. Agree entirely Jimmy.

            Frankly, there has never in all of human history been a better time to get more good info out on a subject than there is now. My own experience with my readers of The Immigrants’ Civil War is instructive. For no fee, readers can access my articles. I often link to primary sources which they can access for free. I provide extensive footnotes and discuss further reading, something that many books do not do. I embed lectures by historians who offer greater depth and a different perspective. If a site can visited, I’ll link to the park’s website. My 2,800 member facebook community can freely interact with me and each other. Friends have urged me to turn the series into a book, but most academic works only sell 1,000 copies or so in their first year, while I had 32,000 visits last year. Other Civil War blogs have well over 100,000 visits per year.

            I am certainly not expecting every professor to blog as often as Brooks Simpson does, but several could combine their work into a single blog as has been done with a couple of cw blogs. I don’t want to privilege the academic bloggers over the many public historians and others who write on the cw, I just want to encourage them to lend their expertise to the public discussion and to say that in academic evaluation, their on-line work should be properly appreciated.

            I don’t teach history, but I do teach law part-time. I can assure you that on my faculty I have the largest on-line readership of any professor (roughly 130,000). My writing is on immigration law and policy for the lay person (although a lot of lawyers and policy-makers read it as well). I don’t mind that my colleagues on the faculty ignore this contribution since I am being paid decently for the blogging, but I wonder how many younger faculty at the law school will even try to communicate with the public since honor goes to those who write unread law review articles on the obscurest of topics and not to those who write for actual people.

  2. Some historians can write well so that what they say can be read by the public. As you noted they tend to get criticized by their colleagues for doing so. We all have a huge problem that fighting over academic or public history is not working to solve. We have demagogues out there who deliberately use history incorrectly and mislead the public for various reasons. Fighting among ourselves while liars like David Barton, Glenn Beck, the Heritage Instead of History crowd, a multitude of hate groups, and others work to subvert history for their nefarious purposes accomplishes nothing positive while those groups create a genuine false historical interpretation in America. All we have to do is look at how the Lost Cause developed to see how big the ramifications are.

    I’m currently reading Francois Furstenberg’s In the Name of the Father which explains how Mason Weems wrote his biography of George Washington. We’re still dealing with the aftermath of that work and how it influenced so many people for so many years. Yet, Weems knew the audience he was aiming at and sold a lot of copies because he tailored what he wrote to that audience. In comparison, books aimed at a smaller, more elite crowd sold poorly in many instances. I think that really underscores what we face today with the above mentioned groups writing what some people want to hear and the negative effects of those lies going into the mainstream American conscious.

    If anyone is going to stop the onslaught of bad history it is going to have to be us. We will have to do that through education, research, and technical knowledge. Writing academic history that fails to reach a main audience means there will be plenty of work for historians who take what the academics write and then write in a way that the main audience can understand it. Not all historians write terribly bad. I have some of the historians you mentioned on my shelf although I confess I focus primarily on the Revolution and Early Republic eras. (Just ignore that book, The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference that came in the mail five minutes ago. That’s for work.)

    i

    1. Please don’t tell me the cherry tree story is a myth! 😉

      If there are tensions between the public and academic historians, I think they need to be dealt with so that both are on the same page. If that means some short-term conflicts, then so be it, since conflict itself isn’t necessarily bad, especially if it leads to better unity on the other side.

  3. Some quick thoughts on how to create an Internet blogosphere that meets historically accurate standards. To begin with we have several organizations of professional historians. Why not form a council from those groups, then create a website commission that establishes standards for websites and blogs to meet and receive the commission’s seal of approval? Then we educators at all levels can instruct the students about that seal and how it represents historically accurate information, and that information from those sites would be much more likely to be accurate although like in all cases double checking information is always the right thing to do.
    The commission could use periodic review of sites, spot checks, etc. People that blog could and should use their professional affiliations to show they are members of the various groups. Financing the commission could be done by charging an annual fee for the each site that applies for review. Yes, make it an application process. Keep the fee down to a low price. Set up a way for feedback to come to the commission if sites with the seal are failing to maintain the standards.
    I think this could be a viable concept that would create a far better system of creating web content that is historically correct while getting peer review instituted. There is no possible way to review all content, but by creating a commission of reputable historical organizations and a seal of approval for sites we would be instituting a system of peer review. I can just hear the Heritage Instead of History crowd screaming bloody murder now because their sites would never get that seal of approval. They would have to create their own seal (of course with the CBF prominently displayed) of stupidity to maintain their delusional concept of historical accuracy.

    1. Interesting thoughts, Jimmy. I do appreciate them. My initial reaction is that I’m not sure that would fly for two reasons. First, the fee. Why should I pay a fee for a seal of approval when I believe my scholarship speaks for itself? Second, why do I need professional affiliations? I’m sure an academic blogger would have no problems seeing all good stuff there, but in that gatekeeping approach you’re sending out the message that anyone who doesn’t have the professional affiliations and pays the fee (pay to play) isn’t reliable, which means there’s no way someone like me, who won’t pay a fee to be accepted and has no professional affiliations to speak of, can be considered reliable in that system. Of course, maybe that’s a good thing. 🙂 I could be all wet on this, but while the internet is very much a caveat emptor entity, it also allows the freedom for folks to experiment and be accepted or rejected on their own merits. I kind of like that. I also like folks coming up with ideas, whether or not I agree with them. I’ve said it before, if we all agreed on everything Baskin Robbins would only need one flavor of ice cream. There have been a few blog reviews from time to time in places like Civil War History and Civil War Times. Your proposal takes that a few steps further. Maybe it will turn out to be the way to go. I think it’s interesting to try to come up with something that fits the bill for historians to publish on the internet and be taken seriously. I’d like to not put a stigma on non-professionals in the process. I know your proposal doesn’t intend to do that, but I believe it will have that effect. Maybe there can be some tinkering with the proposal. Or maybe none is needed at all and my reaction is completely off the mark. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time and effort to share your thoughts. I think something can be crafted in this process.

      1. Al, you wrote: “you’re sending out the message that anyone who doesn’t have the professional affiliations and pays the fee (pay to play) isn’t reliable”, actually that is already the message being sent out by the academy. If any student were to quote you in anything other than a paper on the cw on the internet they would get a red “X” on their paper.

        1. I agree with that, Pat. The difference that I see is that the unspoken message would be, “Don’t go to these sites.” I would also give a red “X” to someone who just cited me; however, what if they saw something I wrote citing a primary source and got to that primary source and used it based on what I had written and decided to credit me with leading them to that source? With the implied message I am seeing (and I freely admit I could be merely paranoid about this and nobody else but me could see that message), they wouldn’t even see what I had written.

      2. The fee is merely there to find the commission if it is necessary. I do think an application process would be necessary. I’m looking at $25 or less.
        As for gatekeeping, the point is to provide a means to establish peer reviewed or close to it in some way historical information on the Net. Nothing is done to prevent anyone from stating what they want to state, but the issue that has been brought up is in identifying reliable historical information.
        I’m a member of the OAH and very happy to be part of that group. I was a member of AHA and will be again once my finances improve (That’s a hint for the college whose employment position teaching American History I applied for). I think it is important for us as reputable scholars and educators to affiliate ourselves with other professionals.

        1. Jimmy, I agree it’s important for scholars and educators to affiliate. I’m thinking with the perspective of someone who is not a professional. I think you’ve done some great thinking about this, and I think there can be some more inclusion involved.

  4. I am taking a more positive view of this supposed split in academic and public history. I think the conference was notable for the number of panels that included academic and public historians. We also can’t forget that people like Anne Whisnant do work in both. I disagree with Jimmy that there is a “major split” between the fields and that the academics’ method of writing is the major problem. There are plenty of examples of bad writing, of course, but we have to acknowledge at some point that many topics are complex and require a great deal of explanation from all types of historians. The Kansas-Nebraska Act is complex. Civil Liberties and the differing interpretations of what was “Constitutional” during the war are complex. Reconstruction is complex. Explaining these topics in an accurate manner requires more than just “tailoring” our writings for a specific audience. Furthermore, many academics I know (including the ones I’m studying with right now) are more than happy to involve themselves in public speaking engagements and workshops, but local historical institutions (archives, museums, etc.) have failed to utilize the talents of these academics, partially because the funds are not there to bring these people in. I don’t want to underestimate the fact that some academics create self-imposed boundaries, but I think it should be stated that the self-imposed boundaries run both ways. All too often people (myself included) mistake complexity for “jargon” and use that as an excuse to dismiss a person’s argument. I struggle with a lot of Mark Neely’s writings, but the topics he covers are important and can find a place in a public history interpretation. Finding ways to incorporate complexity into the discussion is exactly what Peter Carmichael referred to when he argued that visitors should leave sites confused but curious to learn more. Getting audiences to respond to complexity is a big challenge.

    The biggest problem, in my opinion, is the lack of accessibility to the writings of historians. Scholarly journals have digital paywalls and proxies that close access to all except a small cadre of paying customers, which is problematic since we can all acknowledge that people today receive a lot of their historical information online. Jimmy’s remarks on a “seal of approval,” etc. are interesting, although I’m not sure how we put those into practice, and I share Al’s concerns about instituting fees and the implications of attempting to take back authority and exclude certain voices. Some would also argue that the university press system would have to go if such a system were inaugurated (which may not be a bad thing).

    Some academic historians, as Brooks Simpson has pointed out, have resorted to “dated characterizations” about blogging and have expressed their own concerns about the loss of authority and gatekeeping that go along with the digital realm. Those concerns create self-imposed barriers. The reality is that digital technology has the potential to integrate academic and public history in new, unprecedented ways. The work of William Thomas III at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is noteworthy. Thomas wrote a book on railroads (http://www.amazon.com/Iron-Way-Railroads-Making-America/dp/0300187467/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364661435&sr=1-1&keywords=William+Thomas+III) but also created a digital component with many, many resources that tie directly to his academic book (http://railroads.unl.edu/). The website is a bit clunky, but I think the graphs, maps, and other visualizations on the site complement his book quite nicely and help us understand the material in ways that a book doesn’t always convey. The site also provides resources for teachers so that they can utilize the book and website for their own classrooms. Why aren’t more academics engaging in these sorts of projects?

    1. Thanks for these very thoughtful comments, Nick. This really points up to me the accuracy of a conversation I had with Brooks where he identified a spectrum of opinions (I call it a continuum) on the academic/public historian question. We all have our own experiences and our own vantage points, much like the blind men describing an elephant, which colors our opinions about it. It was explained once using the metaphor of a football stadium. Every person in the stadium is watching the same game, but every person in that stadium has a different viewpoint. The guy sitting in the worst seat in the house, behind a pylon, will say the game was really boring but there were a lot of people around him standing up and cheering. The guy sitting in one end zone will have a different viewpoint than the guy sitting on the 50-yard line, and so on. That’s all obvious, but the kicker most of us don’t always connect with that is that every one of them is exactly right because they are describing what happened as they saw it, and they are all 100% correct based on their vantage points. So we all may disagree about some aspect, but we have to remember the person with whom we’re disagreeing is as right as we are, because they are viewing based on their vantage point.

    2. Based on what I’ve been seeing the university press is in trouble right now. We managed to win the battle at the University of Missouri, but that’s just one victory. University presses in other systems have vanished in this era of cost cutting. I think establishing a system for Internet presence is a proactive idea.

      1. I think so, too. It’s just a question of how to do it.

  5. […] at Student of the American Civil War, Al Mackey provides some thoughts regarding whether or not there is a split between academic and public historians. Another commenter […]

  6. Kelly Jones · · Reply

    I attended the conference as someone just interested in the Civil War. I was taken aback by the repeated brow beating of the NPS and also the male masculinity theme. In the initial talk on Thursday night about discussing the wounding of soldiers on the battlefield and talking to kids about it, I was disgusted to say the least. As a wounded veteran it is hard enough trying to explain it to your own child that daddy got shot. Why would I want a complete stranger talking to my kids about that at a battlefield tour? That should be for the parents to discuss it for an age appropriate medium. I attended the PPT charge walking tour as well and one example Peter pulled out was the execution of a deserter by the CSA for the killing of an officer. Peter asked where was the outrage for this poor soul that had been executed. Why should there be? It boils down to a lack of understanding of the military and how it works. People who have never served talking about war. The majority of Americans don’t understand the modern American Military today. How can we expect them to understand the military’s of the 19th century? As Gabor Borritt asked the final night at the visitors center how do people who have never been to war represent those who did?

    I think it needs to be answered.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, Kelly, and thank you for your service to our country. I think we need to keep in mind that we’re talking about a war, and as you very well know, people get wounded and killed in a war. What you heard was a proposal–a proposal that more time be devoted to talking about the costs of the war. As you heard in Brooks’ comment, that could be a “Debbie Downer” type of moment. I’m with you and Brooks in believing that it’s not the way we should go. I think visiting the battlefield should be fun for the kids, because they’ll remember that and they’ll be back when they’re older. I think adult visitors are different from child visitors, and that calls for a different approach, covering different things. I was on the same field experience, and Pete was presenting a proposal again. It’s been awhile, but I have to say I don’t remember him asking where outrage was, but I think what he was getting at was that this was a soldier who behaved honorably at Gettysburg, but had had enough of the war later and went home. He was a casualty of the war and we have to ask ourselves what caused this man who was a good soldier to become a deserter. What led him to his execution? Pete was asking us to question the journey that boy took from honorable soldier to executed deserter. That was my take on what he was saying. I could be completely wrong about it, though. I don’t think a historian interpreting the war has to be a veteran, just as I don’t think a historian writing about a politician has to have run for office or a historian talking about life in Ancient Greece has to have been an ancient Grecian. I think military experience offers great insights to a historian, of course, but they can still understand what they need to understand without having the experience. All in my opinion. I appreciate your viewpoint on this. As you can see from my previous comments, I’m completely with you on the terminology used.

      1. Kelly Jones · · Reply

        Al,
        Well put. I think in the end it is honoring the veterans through an accurate interpretation of what occurred there. Which may be just as controversial…

        Cheers,

        Kelly

        1. Thanks, Kelly. Every interpretation will have an agenda of some kind behind it. You and I agree that honoring the sacrifices made is indeed one of the things we need to do, and as accurate a picture of what happened is the best way to do that.

  7. […] to complicate your view of the future of Civil War history (or The Future of Civil War History)? Go here and […]

  8. Peter Carmichael · · Reply

    Al: Wonderful discussion following your very fair and balanced assessment of the conference. As you point out, the academy and public historian do different things and we also overlap in critical ways. Those difference, for some strange reasons, are too often interpreted as a divide or evidence of academics being out of touch or public historians being lost in the weeds of micro history. We all bring different strengths and methodological approaches. This is not a bad thing in my estimation. There was much sharing and disagreeing at the conference and of course that is the sign of intellectual health and vigor. And I love that we had such a diverse group of panelists and audience. Quite simply we had never seen such a gathering in our field.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Pete. I agree completely that sharing and disagreeing is a good sign that there is, as you say, intellectual health and vigor. Nobody’s going to agree on everything, so the freedom to vocally disagree is a good thing. I hope the conversation continues to build.

  9. Peter Carmichael · · Reply

    Al: I should add that future CWI summer conferences will have working groups with public historians, graduate students, and a range of academic historians, a format that should allow for a continuation of the conversations started at the Future of Civil War History. And over time all sides will become more familiar with are professional quirks and eccentricities–as well as our shared mission to educate. When we speak of tangible accomplishments, we cannot overlook the value of the internship programs at NPS sites that are being sponsored by universities like Gettysburg College, Penn State, West Virginia University and the list goes on.

    1. Pete, that’s terrific news. I’m really looking forward to this summer’s conference.

  10. I’m sure I have some of my old Methods materials. Though you do have access to many professors willing to recommend readings on the various lenses of historical interpretation and methods.

    I will add to the conversation that I don’t really know what I was expecting when I signed up for the conference, but what I got was not really what I was expecting. But that’s not a bad thing. There were a lot of interesting ideas brought up. And it was good and refreshing to be in a semi-academic setting again, after 5 1/2 years out of the history field. That being said, there definitely seemed to be a little tension between the academics and public historians, and those who straddle the two fields seemed to also be a little uncomfortable when one side criticized the other. It reminded me of my own feelings of outsiderness and inadequacy when I wanted to do my thesis on Civil War films; which is considered to be more of a popular history “fluff” topic by many “serious” historians. However, most students are first exposed to history through movies, or visiting historical sites.

    I know many historians hate the linear progressive nature of historical sites (moving from slavery to Civil Rights etc.) as we all know that history doesn’t progress in a neat timeline; but I think this is a model that the Public is comfortable with. It is reassuring. It echos the timelines from school, only with a little more flesh and story. The best way to introduce complex thoughts and questions to the public is to pepper them into the progressive narrative. People are more comfortable with the because of this…that presentation of history. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but that is what the NPS has to work with. (How many sentences can I end with a preposition?) If they offer a presentation more in line with an academic’s vision the public may not react well.

    I also really liked how some of the public historians mentioned the gap between academic trends and public trends: how it takes about 20 years for academic trends to reach the interpretive level. And I think that’s revealing. It’s like the academic trends need to be digested, passed along to a new generation which filters it into the parks. Like a cultivation process to ready the public to accept newer interpretations. So maybe, in 20 years, there will be a further breakdown to the progressive nature of public interpretation. And I think the internet will feed into that. The internet makes it so that you, as the consumer, can veer off the timeline and click links to go to the aspects you want to know more about. While at a museum or a park you have spacial limitations that make it difficult to present everything you want, on the internet there is a seemingly unlimited amount of space to embed links and place other information without distracting from the main ideas. You click if you’re curious, continue on if you’re not.

    And finally, there was an aside mention of the Enola Gay controversy and how that person had no desire to relive that. That whole episode really illustrates the problem public historians have with presenting history. We read the articles about that in my Methods class and the proposed display really sounded interesting and like something I’d like to see. However, for various reasons, the public was not, and likely still is not, ready for the brutal honesty and complexity of such a display. Maybe in 50 years such a display will be possible. Maybe in another 10 or 20 years CW sites can end with the question “was it worth it?” or present the hero who later becomes a deserter. Which really only makes these men more human. No one can be heroic all the time. We have these men built up in the collective memory as being one dimensional; they were either heroes fighting for their beliefs or they were cowards the same man could not be both. I think the next step is to present the humanity of the soldiers, not only by showcasing your average soldier instead of just officers, but by showing how they changed from one battle to the next.

    Sorry for the rambling. I have so many thoughts and they aren’t quite cohesive yet. They’re still marinating and circling around to find the right way to express my experience, impression, and resulting action from the conference. But I definitely think there was palatable tension that many picked up on, and I’m not sure what we can (collectively as a field, not we as in you or I) do about it.

    1. I think I see an essay in the making. 🙂

  11. Peter Carmichael · · Reply

    Karen: Very good observations that get at the heart of audience issues that are different for academic and public historians. I also heard the point about public history sites having to “catch up” with academic history. I don’t quite agree that observation—there is so much collaboration, especially in Civil War history and the work of bloggers helps keep the conversations fresh and dynamic

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