Publication Date

December 1, 2012

Perspectives Section


The AHA's social media spaces (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) feature the latest news in the history profession. In an effort to demonstrate why historical context is necessary to political discourse,Perspectives Online sponsored four roundtables on the presidential and vice presidential debates. In part, these forums were designed to spark a conversation amongst our readers, and below is a sampling of reactions captured on our social media spaces:

Reaction to the Respondents' Essays

@stschrader1 tweeted, "If u read only 1 thing about the fiasco last night: Muhammad (of @SchomburgCenter) on race & Obama h/t", and "How we (well the US presidential debates) look from far away….. in time. In addition, some of the more interesting conversations about the debates were amongst our own forum participants. Susmita, commenting on Facebook, wrote "Prof. Rodgers, I was kind of dumbfounded myself about how job creation alone would address the deep systemic crisis in our macroeconomic financial structures. I missed Candy Crowley's intelligent question at the end. Not sure whether Keynes addressed the problem of fractional-reserve based central banking as it was debated in some of our early presidential debates."

Historicizing Campaign Rhetoric

We asked AHALinkedIn members to point out specific moments during the debates where the candidates missed an opportunity to use historical thinking to help support their position, and our discussion forum turned lively, with over 120 comment. LinkedIn member Jonathan wrote, for example: “While sadly (and alarmingly) the general public is woefully deficient in historical knowledge beyond superficial and mythology-laden generalities, the political class and party candidates are adept at exploiting this abdication of civic responsibility through orchestrated misuse or outright distortion of historical fact and context. . . .”

General Comments about the Roundtables

Overall, the AHA received generally positive reviews of the forums, including: @ScholarlyComm, "Loving these #AHA roundtables!" AHA Today reader Gregory commented, "I advocate a change in the way these AHA roundtables are organized. Every CPD debate, including tonight's (Oct. 22), has been "expanded" by Democracy Now! on their website…I would be interested to read the next roundtable's responses to this expanded debate, as well as, of course, to address some of the underlying historical issues and power behind the debate process itself and Democracy Now!'s attempted intervention in it." In response to our presentation, @YAppelbaum tweeted, "It's great to see @AHAhistorians engaging the public debate, though, even if the format needs a little work," and @edwardjblum echoed his critique: "@YAppelbaum @AHAhistorians not pretty, but great content."

Other News You May Have Missed

AHA Today

AHA executive director James Grossman makes a modest suggestion to newly re-elected president Barack Obama, pointing out that the president would benefit from diversifying his team of advisers to include historians who “would better address many more of the president’s questions and better inform many more of his policies”. Also, the AHA is crowdsourcing a list of which history departments publish their placement of history PhDs on their web site. If we missed other departments that include placement information, please let us know via our social media!


AHA presidentWilliam Cronon's November column inPerspectives on History was a hit on twitter. @dancohen tweeted: “The monthly @AHAhistorians president’s column by @wcronon has become must-reading for anyone who loves books & the web,” while @mauracunningham wrote “Sometimes, there’s no substitute for real books, says @wcronon @AHAhistorians. I concur.”

Vanessa Varin is the AHA's web content editor.

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