This presidential address was delivered at the 135th annual meeting of the American Historical Association, held in New Orleans on January 5, 2022.

Historians and Their Publics, Then and Now

The American Historical Association held its 2022 annual meeting in New Orleans. The COVID-19 pandemic had caused the cancellation of the previous year’s meeting, scheduled for Seattle. By January 2022, the worldwide death toll from the pandemic had climbed to more than 5.2 million, including the loss of more than eight hundred thousand lives in the United States. That we met in New Orleans seemed particularly apt; here was a port city with a rich multicultural history shaped by international trade; cultural exchange; capitalist strivings; and mass in-migration, voluntary and coerced. The recent history of this city offers a stark lesson in the power of destructive worldwide trends. Aided and abetted by human actions, climate change and infectious diseases constitute some of the most powerful, deadly forces shaping societies all over the globe—forces that abide no national boundaries.

In the two years since the association last met in person, the United States has witnessed death on a massive scale and a contentious presidential election, an economic downturn and a spike in unemployment, and a violent attack on the nation’s Capitol building by right-wing extremists determined to disrupt the peaceful transfer of presidential power. Many authoritarian leaders (including those in the United States) are actively engaged in controlling the narrative of their nation’s past by substituting myth for truth in the form of “memory laws.”1 As historians, we are conscious of living through a time that will provide fodder for our future students’ textbooks.

That last line calls for a bit of revisionism. Textbooks remain a key element in high school and undergraduate history classes; however, the current widespread diffusion of historical knowledge would seem to vindicate those historians who over the generations have sought to engage a wider public—or rather multiple publics—and bring the insights gleaned from scholarly research to audiences outside the academy. Yet the proliferation of media dedicated to stories about the past has had some unanticipated consequences, stoking the ongoing so-called culture wars and bringing a startling level of conflict to the interpretation and uses of history. This conflict affects historians regardless of their workplace—K–12 public schools, galleries and museums, colleges and universities, historic houses and battlefields, the federal government.

These controversies tend to revolve around historians’ current efforts to offer an inclusive narrative about US history, one that challenges traditional accounts that pushed women and people of color to the margins of, or erased them altogether from, history. In 2021, the AHA initiated a project to examine its own history, aiming to identify any role the association played in creating and promoting racist narratives about the nation’s past. The AHA annual presidential addresses from the first one, in 1884, to the present are relevant to this project for what they reveal about a gradual trend toward a more accurate, inclusive history that reaches a wider audience. The addresses also reveal professional historians’ persistent concerns as well as their periodic calls for an overhaul of the discipline.2 One notable, enduring theme is the relation—and at times the tension—between historians and their various publics in and outside the academy.

It is all to the good that the AHA has undergone dramatic transformations in its leadership over the last half century and that people today encounter history in multiple lively and ubiquitous ways. At the same time, scholars must contend with the striking efforts among politicians and others with a political agenda to substitute fiction for historical fact. Though hardly new, these dangerous impulses remind us that the study of history remains a source of deep division among any number of publics, including (but not limited to), here in the United States, local school board members, state legislators, congressional representatives, and college faculty and administrators.

The genre of the AHA presidential address is a strange one. Ranging anywhere from three thousand to fifteen thousand words, it can combine elements of the scholarly-journal article, annual-meeting panel presentation, autobiographical sketch, award acceptance speech, classroom lecture, after-dinner booster-club oration, and jeremiad. The address can be all these things but rarely is just one of them. Though published in the American Historical Review, the address is first delivered in person at the annual meeting and, until 2014 at least, not sooner than eight in the evening—and sometimes after alcohol-infused dinners or receptions. For many years on a biennial basis, AHA presidents shared that time slot with their counterparts from the American Economic Association and the American Political Science Association. Beginning in the 1920s, the speeches followed the awarding of prizes, which meant that the AHA address might continue well into the night.3

Customs dictated by the time of day and the president’s term presented a challenge for the speaker. Louis R. Harlan declared (in 1989) that his chief purpose in delivering the address was to disturb everyone’s “after-dinner nap that perhaps [listeners] thought came with the price of admission.” In 1975, Gordon Wright suggested that the problem with the format was not that the address came late at night but that it came at the very end of the president’s term, precluding proposals for policy initiatives or structural reforms of the association. The speech was, Wright suggested, “one Parthian shot, a gesture that no doubt has symbolic value, but that wins few battles, and rarely creates enduring legends.” Wright quoted Carl Lotus Becker’s implicit acknowledgment of the problematic nature of the address itself; in 1936, Becker complained that a recent president had not done “himself Justice” in his address, and then added, “But then very few do.”4

Until 1920 or so, the AHA presidency amounted to an honorific position awarded to scholars engaged full-time in the study of history, but also to men of high status outside the profession, including former or current college presidents, ambassadors, and librarians, as well as a US senator, a former president of the Union Pacific Railroad, and a current president and a former president of the United States. A disproportionate number taught at a handful of elite institutions, such as Harvard; Yale; Columbia; Johns Hopkins; the University of Pennsylvania; the University of Chicago; and the University of California, Berkeley. More than half specialized in US history.5

For the first ninety-five years of the association’s existence, the presidents were white men, with the exception of Nellie Neilson of Mount Holyoke College, who served in that office in 1943. (Neilson won the presidency as a result of a robust campaign waged by her supporters.)6 John Hope Franklin broke the streak of white presidents in 1979. He was followed by Thomas C. Holt in 1994, Vicki Ruiz in 2015, and Tyler Stovall in 2017. The election of Natalie Zemon Davis in 1987 marked the beginning of a long line of women in the position—thirteen since that year. The late 1970s onward reveal a striking change in the leadership of the AHA, with women and people of color reaching the pinnacle of the profession. The content of the presidential addresses reflected that change, offering a view of history that included whole swaths of humankind missing from the earlier ones.

The in-person audience for the address has changed over the years as well, but it has narrowed, not expanded; early on, local dignitaries from the host city—politicians, members of the clergy, and businessmen—attended the evening event. Most speakers left nothing to chance, reading the text verbatim, and some noted at the beginning of their talk that they had long labored over the words; spontaneity is not a hallmark of the presidential address. Most speakers assumed they were talking primarily to historians, whether professional or amateur (the latter dominated the discipline during the AHA’s first years). In 1942, Arthur M. Schlesinger broke ranks and asked, “What then is the American, this new man?”—a question that he hoped would resonate throughout a country in the process of mobilizing for war. He delivered a paean to the “American character,” one abounding in “courage, creative energy, and resourcefulness and is bottomed upon the profound conviction that nothing in the world is beyond its power to accomplish.” Schlesinger no doubt hoped that listeners without a PhD or deep knowledge of historiography could understand and appreciate his rallying cry.7

If annual AHA addresses present a problematic genre, then reading all of them—and only them—in chronological order presents us with a problematic assignment based on an unusual primary source. The speeches are easily accessible online, and they beckon to the reader who is curious about the views of a particular scholar or the tenor of a particular time, but few people (other than some AHA presidents, I assume) sit down and read all 137 of them sequentially. Doing so makes the researcher an Improbable Reader, a task that has its advantages and disadvantages.

Among the advantages: The addresses reveal fascinating clashes over methodology and subject matter. Too, one gets a sense of changes in the discipline and profession over time, as well as of the shared concerns that bind today’s historians to their late nineteenth-century counterparts. The addresses play off against each other: Some presidents took the occasion to respond directly to the comments of their predecessor, exchanges that must have inspired mixed murmurings of assent and dissent among the audience as one prominent historian declared his intention to pay his “disrespects” to another, or others.8 One speaker might call on historians to emulate the ancients, the next to forget the ancients. One might urge historians to offer moral judgments of the historical figures they studied, another to refrain from such judgments. One might offer lessons from history, only to be followed by one who declared flatly that there are no “lessons” to be drawn from history.

To cite another example: In 1933, the Progressive historian Charles A. Beard claimed that the study of history was necessarily a subjective enterprise, “an act of faith” on the part of practitioners who must believe that their sources revealed certain truths about the past. Beard claimed that powerful institutional forces such as the church and the state produced primary evidence, official archives, twisted to their own advantage. Three years later, Charles McIlwain responded, decrying Beard’s pessimistic “intellectual weariness” and blaming him and his ilk for a shameless presentism in their scholarship. In 1950, Samuel Eliot Morison piled on, condemning what he considered the Progressives’ “imprecatory preaching” masquerading as scholarship. Beard’s criticism of the state as untrustworthy, Morison charged, rendered the generation of men who came of age in 1940 as “spiritually unprepared for the war they had to fight.” Morison also ridiculed his colleagues toiling in the academy, perhaps even at Harvard, where he had been teaching for nearly three decades: “The historical profession will have little use for timid pedants, whose ambition goes no farther than to get a firm footing on one of the lower steps of the academic escalator, proceeding painlessly from one professorial grade to another until overtaken by death and oblivion.”9

If revealing of principled disagreements in addition to feuds, resentments, and grudges (usually expressed obliquely) among an elite cohort of historians, the addresses are less successful in reflecting the wide-ranging scholarship of AHA members. The Improbable Reader, tied to this limited evidentiary base, is at a disadvantage if the aim is to get a full or fair view of the profession. For decades, most AHA presidents who were Americanists focused on constitutional and political history. With a couple of notable exceptions, the addresses by themselves would suggest that it was not until the 1970s and 1980s that the profession had any interest in the overlapping histories of women, workers, or people of non-Western European descent. In fact, this was not the case. Articles in the American Historical Review, course offerings in university course catalogs, and annual-meeting programs reveal an ongoing, lively interest in social history generally and in women and people of color and the laboring classes in particular. The first AHA president, Andrew Dickson White, argued for a grand synthesis of history that included ordinary people as well as kings and courts, individuals and institutions—one that would enlist quantitative analysis in service of a broader narrative. As Cornell University’s first president, White was responsible for assembling an impressive collection of materials related to Northern antebellum abolitionists as well as the Civil War. Thus, the Improbable Reader, encountering these addresses in isolation from other evidence, cannot understand the rich history of AHA or the profession at large.10

Still, the addresses contain much good history and some surprises, rewarding the reader, improbable or not. Edward Eggleston’s address, “The New History,” ushered in the twentieth century and came as a welcome relief after a decade and a half of cliché-ridden celebration of the American Revolution, the Constitution, and the Northwest Ordinance. Eggleston lauded “the history of culture, the real history of men and women.” He questioned conventional political and military perspectives, calling for an end to what he called “drum and trumpet history,” suggesting that the subject of war had become “trite” and all-consuming: “We can not always cover our pages with gore.” Eggleston cited the renowned George Bancroft as a chief offender in this regard, peddling a mindless patriotism in his grand narratives of the republic: “He has repelled more young people from the study of history than all other influences in America.” Eggleston also questioned that the purpose of historical study was to make good citizens of young people, if that meant leaving out girls, destined for disfranchisement. Yet in his capacious view of history, Eggleston remained an outlier during those early years.11

Several specific questions and concerns weave in and out of the addresses. Perhaps it is reassuring to know that we today share with the earliest members of the association certain enduring preoccupations, including an ambivalent relationship with the social sciences, a love-hate relationship with our footnotes (“At the foot of every page the notes rim along, like little angry dogs barking at the text”), a suspicion of nonhistorians who claim authority to interpret the past, and questions about reaching out to our various publics.12 The early years suggest a direct relation between the scholarly interests of the presidents and their decisions to focus narrowly on white men. From 1970 to 1985, some presidents believed the profession was in a state of crisis, not just because of the resurgence of a so-called fragmented and specialized history but also because of the demographic characteristics of the historians writing it.

AHA presidential addresses lend themselves to rough categorization. By far the most common topics were the historian’s craft and the state of the field, with new approaches proposed and misguided trends condemned. Several presidents cited declining standards in publications and historical scholarship generally—perhaps not an unexpected lament, considering that most of them were older and eager to impart their own brand of wisdom to a younger generation. In 1945, Carlton J. H. Hayes expressed alarm at what he considered a kind of intellectual pollution afflicting the interwar years, a trend caused by “amorphous jelly-like substitutes” for “solid, vertebrate history.”13 Too, it was not unusual for presidents to suggest that their colleagues might profitably turn their attention to—and here fill in the blank with the speaker’s field of expertise—military history, diplomatic history (an obsession with battles is in “bad taste”), public morals, religious history, international relations, psychoanalytic theory, the history of ideas, or a particular region of the world.14 And then there were those who reached back into history for lessons that could guide and inspire researchers—and the country: the glories of the Hellenistic world, with its international unity, innovation, and free trade; the seventeenth-century monks who shaped the age of erudition and created communities of scholars; early English common law, presented as a beacon against the darkness of tyranny.15

At times this continuity across the generations came in the form of shared convictions, and at other times in the form of ongoing disagreements that provoked harsh words and led to hard feelings. Among the shared convictions: We as historians hope to follow the evidence and get the facts right. A favorite quote of the early presidents was that of the German scholar Leopold von Ranke (1795–1886), who in 1824 admonished all those who would study the past to recount an event “exactly as it happened”—“wie es eigentlich gewesen ist.” Though the idea of a noble calling seems quaint, not surprisingly AHA presidents have agreed that the study of history is a socially useful, purposeful endeavor. At the same time, there seems to be a consensus that every generation writes its own version of the past. As H. Morse Stephens put it, the historian is “inevitably controlled by the spirit of his age.” In 1925, Charles M. Andrews declared that no history is ever “complete” and that historians had an obligation to rewrite history from their own vantage point based on time and place.16

The jeremiad address warned that the United States was going in the wrong direction—thus Carlton J. H. Hayes’s fear that the “lusty nationalism” of post–World War II America would corrupt the study of history and contribute to isolationism from the rest of the world; this isolationism was “the result … of ignorance, of self-centered absorption in local or sectional concerns, and of nationalist propaganda.”17 In 1946, Sidney B. Fay questioned the very idea of American progress in art, music, morals, and political theory as he despaired of the lost art of people “living together.” Even scientific achievements came at a price, according to Fay, with the machine age shattering tight-knit communities, movies and radio soaking up family time, and the assembly line causing widespread discontent among workers. Two world wars; an emerging cold war; and everyday strikes, divorces, and car crashes—all were indicators that “our … civilization” was in danger of “slipping back.”18

Some presidents offered fascinating microhistories based on their own research. Others called attention to a particular aspect of the profession—for example, the teaching of undergraduates or the training of graduate students—and offered remedies for perceived failures. The autobiographical address made a point about the state of the field or the fecklessness of colleagues. Walter Prescott Webb’s talk in 1958 took the form of the picaresque, a self-conscious renegade’s poke in the eye of his after-dinner listeners. Titled “History as High Adventure,” his address recounted his own swashbuckling youth studying the Texas Rangers, interviewing them, visiting their camps, and “wearing a Colt revolver in places where it might have been useful”—an “exhilarating experience.” (In fact, Webb seemed unconcerned that the Rangers were notorious for their murderous attacks on Mexican Americans along the Texas-Mexico border.) Webb declared himself exceptionally well qualified to be a historian of the American West because he had never taken a course in that subject. He claimed, disingenuously, that he harbored no professional ambitions, and derided his colleagues who put PhD students through the wringer by asking them “silly questions.”19

Not all presidents heeded George Park Fisher’s own stated preference to avoid “the ‘burning questions’ of the day”—this in 1898, when violent US imperialist impulses sparked many a political and ideological conflagration.20 Indeed, some presidents offered pointed commentary on controversial contemporary issues—the tariff, imperialism, trusts, and free silver in 1901, the clash between church and state in the 1920s.21 Nevertheless, for nine and a half decades, no presidents directly discussed, or even alluded to, the historic Black freedom struggle unfolding in the country; most ignored the history of regions that would eventually become part of the United States before the British colonized those places; and most took it for granted that the driver of the historical narrative, the avatar of the so-called American “character,” was an Anglo man who conquered a “wilderness,” a region supposedly devoid of people of Indigenous or Hispanic descent.

AHA presidents implicitly spoke to their own times when they denounced those whom they considered their contemporary rivals—men and women in other professions or scholarly disciplines claiming to be interpreters of the past and capturing the much sought-after respectful attention of the public in the process. Presidents took it for granted that the United States should provide history education for all classes of people at all levels of society—or, along “a great educational ladder with one end in the gutter and the other in the university.”22 Presumably an understanding of the nation’s past was an essential component of informed citizenship, especially as the times demanded it—during war, depression, cultural clashes, the surging of totalitarian governments.

Exactly how the study of history elevated the country remained a matter of dispute, with some questioning the role of the historian as arbiter of moral values. Theodore Roosevelt believed that the historian must be a person of great imagination but also of great moral sensibilities, someone who could produce literature that was timeless and inspiring to readers outside the academy.23 Some speakers suggested that researchers should suppress their “righteous indignation” in the process of revealing the misdeeds of bad actors in the past, while others maintained the historian must not only identify heroic figures but also praise them.24 There was some disagreement over whether or not mass murderers should be absolved of responsibility by claiming they were merely buffeted by forces outside their control (as Henry Charles Lea seemed to do in discussing the murderous reign of Spain’s Philip II).25 In 1953, Louis Gottschalk placed a heavy burden on his colleagues by exhorting them to help guide an “unmoored society” and in the process “try to give to the lasting puzzles of life new meaningfulness (which is something more than mere meaning).”26

In staking their claim to expertise, and, at times, moral authority, historians saw rivals everywhere—scholars in the natural sciences and the social sciences, politicians, and journalists. One persistent controversy, expressed in innumerable ways, can be boiled down to the question, Is history a science, a social science, or one of the humanities? Is the writing of history more akin to producing great literature or filing a laboratory-experiment report? Do historians share with social scientists the search for universal laws of human behavior? Or is it possible that history lies somewhere, in the words of Goldwin Smith, “between its two rulers, the Reason and the Imagination”? Albert Bushnell Hart took an extreme position in 1909 when he argued that history was as much a science as biology or chemistry, because the historian trafficked only in concrete facts and shunned imagination, the “corroder of exactness.” After all, historians studied “human nature,” a subset of the larger natural world composed of animate beings and inanimate objects.27

Some presidents feared that the public would be drawn to or seduced by nonhistorians who offered overarching theories or grand scientific schemas that purported to explain all human history. Early AHA officers at times balked at engaging in a conversation they believed was defined and delimited by Marxists, Darwinists, or Christians; to take seriously one of these interpretations of the past meant that historians would have to either “prove” it or come up with a new idea of their own. Over the years, presidential addresses considered the virtues of—or threats posed by—various intellectual frameworks, including modernization theory, psychoanalysis, existentialism, communism, and poststructuralism.

Henry Adams was an early dissenter from the effort to bring history more in line with the social sciences. He regretted that a substantial majority of historians seemed to believe themselves perpetually “on the brink of a great generalization that would reduce all history under a law”—one as precise as the “laws” that governed the natural world, one that unlocked “the secret which would transform these odds and ends of philosophy into one self-evident, harmonious, and complete system.” Rather than discourage this effort to “order the chaos and [bring] bright light into darkness,” Adams slyly asked his listeners to consider the consequences if they succeeded. He warned that any grand theory would arouse the intense opposition of certain stakeholder publics, including governments and established religions that promoted their own way of looking at the world. History qua science-certain-of-itself could no longer claim to be “a safe and harmless branch of inquiry” once it represented a threat to the established order. Following up on his own joke, Adams concluded that silence—“no opinion”—was the preferred option when it came to trying to reduce a messy past to scientific exactitude. Not long after (in 1919), William Roscoe Thayer disparaged the search for historical “certitude,” a chimera pursued by many of his colleagues who saw people in the past only as “pieces of metal, moulded into interlocking parts of a soulless machine.” Periodically someone would declare the matter settled, as Beard did in 1933, when he reported that members of the profession had discarded scientific theories the way they had abandoned metaphysics and theology. He was wrong, of course, and debates over theory—social scientific and natural scientific—continue to this day.28

Several presidents focused their ire on politicians, claiming that too many elected officials were ignorant of history and hostage to questionable values. More than one AHA president exhorted historians to serve as guides to solving current predicaments because politicians lacked an understanding of the basics of history, let alone the specialized knowledge that would allow them to deal effectively with issues in the present. Charles F. Adams deplored “the petulant chattering of the political magpies.” In 1937, Guy Stanton Ford took to task conservative politicians and corporate leaders (and presumably Supreme Court justices), labeling them “swollen exemplars of individualism,” men quick to exploit farmers, workers, and consumers; now “their fear and their lack of a social philosophy defensible in the forum of public opinion leave them little but a vituperative vocabulary and a blind and dangerous insistence” that all social change amounts to an unwelcome revolution. An exception was the 1895 peroration of George Frisbie Hoar, who could barely conceal his contempt for the third-party Populists and muckraking journalists, all promoting what he considered an ill-conceived anticorruption agenda. According to Hoar, these so-called reformers unfairly criticized leaders of the Republican and Democratic Parties, the majority of whom, he averred, were men “lead[ing] … temperate, simple lives … in the public service.”29

Hoar’s contempt for newspaper reporters echoed through the decades of presidential addresses. Journalists supposedly adopted a hard-bitten, cynical tone, shunning the truth in favor of sensationalism and inspiring historians to do the same. One gets a sense that if anyone is going to write a first draft of history, it should be historians. Still, some members of the general public apparently had and continue to have difficulty distinguishing between newspaper reporting on the one hand and scholarship about the past on the other, seeing both journalists and historians as just recorders of “facts and figures.”30

The presidential addresses indicate that early members of the AHA, like instructors today, struggled to appeal to undergraduates. It appears that historians have always worried that what they teach is boring, an exercise in dullness and passivity, a story of the past conveyed via a “juiceless and utterly disheartening method of instruction.”31 In 1924, Charles M. Andrews expressed his fear that history as written was too often “bloodless”—“a grim, worldly old hag” that repelled all but the favored few members of the guild.32 Dry dust makes several appearances in this context—the fear that history is “Dry as dust,” with “dry” textbooks and “dry-as-dust” wisdom peddled by the “dry-as-dust pedant.”33 Becker urged his colleagues to eschew the “disfiguring jargon of science” and write a “living history” that would banish “a species of dry professional arrogance growing out of the thin soil of antiquarian research.”34 Too many lecturers produced a “soporific effect upon the innocent victims of our instruction.” Historians must refrain from offering the same lectures year after year and recycling “the same stale jokes” in order to bring history to life. Only then would the classroom become “an abiding influence” in national life.35

For many professional historians, the broader public has remained an elusive and at times somewhat mysterious audience. The first article in the first issue of the American Historical Review spoke to this problem. In “History and Democracy,” William M. Sloane outlined the challenges of presenting history to the masses, who, although neither wealthy nor highly educated, had the force of numbers in their favor. Ordinary people rejected a narrow focus on institutional political history and sought information about their own collective past, the conditions of the “common man.” However, according to Sloane, historians should “not go too far in yielding to a popular clamor” for a particular kind of history. As the general reading public grew in intelligence, he opined, it would become more supportive of rigorous scholarship, marked by both sweeping accounts and careful attention to details (“thoroughness”).36

In 1940, Max Farrand called on his colleagues to communicate to a general public via radio as well as books and maintain a high level of distinction in their work in the process. Still, some historians feared that all that dull dry dust might prove a formidable barrier for historians who wanted to extend their reach beyond the academy—those scholars who, in the words of Morison, were “always hop[ing] for a public beyond that of the long-suffering wife.” Becker famously pronounced, “Everyman his own historian,” naturally primed to apply an understanding of his own past to a broader appreciation of history. Acknowledging that monographs rarely find an audience of any great size—“few will read, fewer still long remember” them—historians must pay special attention to the crafting of textbooks, “history in the large,” for they reach more people than the narrow “history in the little.” Reflecting the existential crises of the post–World War II period, James G. Randall cautioned against offering the general public depressing case studies that posited economic determinism, studies that exemplified Camus’s “philosophy of emptiness.”37

At the same time, historians have remained wary of the larger meaning of popular success as measured in sales figures. The temptation of the money trap might lead to feeding a public appetite that craved anecdote and gossip. In 1922, Charles Homer Haskins warned about “the temptation to write much and frequently on topics of current interest—‘hot stuff on live subjects’”—rather than producing “a considerable and finely matured work.” He and others hoped to avoid the pitfalls of writing textbooks whose greatness was measured only in the number of course adoptions (a function of “the pecuniary needs of writer and publisher”). John Bach McMaster dismissed catering to popular demand as “pure commercialism.” A related danger was that historians possessed of crass motives might care more about literary form than scholarly substance. Indeed, efforts to attract a wider public had the potential to distort the historian’s priorities in choosing a topic; for example, it remained a matter of dispute whether nonacademic readers who craved histories about war should forever be indulged in that regard.38

Were historians who reached the best-seller list to be lauded for their ability to connect with people outside the profession or derided as those who “have sold their skill for a mess of royalties”?39 In 1959, Allan Nevins tried to play peacemaker between the two camps. In an address titled “Not Capulets, Not Montagus,” he pushed back against the notion “that history must be either authoritative and dull or interesting and untrustworthy,” a dilemma responsible for “widening the gap between history that is broadly acceptable and history that is academically acceptable.” Historians must write for a “democratic public” in the spirit of Emerson and Lincoln. Nevins urged scholars to use any available medium—whether books, movies, radio, or TV. Puncturing his listeners’ self-importance, he suggested that writers of popular history had a case when they claimed that it was they “who keep the breezes of concern with the human and dramatic aspects of history whipping into your stuffy classrooms.”40

Still, many historians had little choice but to respond to the demands of the university merit system and the imperatives of making a living. The scholarly monograph was the hinge on which promotions and salaries turned, and not all departments valued history that was geared toward a general audience. In 1927, Henry Osborn Taylor positioned himself in the time-honored tradition of Herodotus, Francis Parkman, and James Ford Rhodes, “laymen” all, and admitted that he could not have written his books on the ancient world and the European Middle Ages if he had had to teach or perform any kind of any administrative service. Conyers Read cited the burdens placed on historians who were not independently wealthy: few could afford a high-minded indifference to moneymaking by teaching in the morning and communing with Clio in the afternoon “without mercenary impulses”; for most, that meant obeying the strictures of the academic merit system and writing monographs for the edification of their peers.41

It is hardly surprising that many of these older white men expressed and promoted the prejudices of their times. In 1954, Merle Curti acknowledged that white intellectuals played a role in justifying and rationalizing racial bias.42 Scientific racism has a long and sordid history in the United States, and racial ideologies in general helped shape a decidedly whitewashed Southern view of the American past. William Wirt Henry advised his listeners not to dwell on the so-called evils of slavery, since, he claimed, the institution was remarkably effective and efficient in lifting Africans out of barbarism and into civilization.43 Several presidents alluded to “the glory of honorable conflict” between the North and South and eschewed the term “Civil War” altogether in favor of “War for Southern Independence.”44 Some promoted Lost Cause ideology—the notion that white Southerners were heirs to an honorable if doomed drive for independence waged by their heroic Confederate forebears. One of the chief offenders in this regard, William A. Dunning, delivered the 1913 presidential address but devoted his remarks to what he called “truth in history.” He urged the historian to ferret out the erroneous views that people held in the past, even as he was replicating and propagating a false narrative about postbellum America.45

In the first eight decades or so of the AHA’s history, the addresses contain few egregious cases of slurs against people of color or women, but rather a studied indifference, a great silence, as if these groups did not matter, as if they did not even exist in history or in the realm of historical analysis. For many decades, presidents were guilty of crimes of omission that in effect obliterated the lived experience of a substantial part of the world’s population.

The early presidents took the occasion of their addresses to praise the virtues of the American republic and the genius of what are commonly called the Founding Fathers. In 1891, William Wirt Henry pronounced the revolutionaries of 1776 to be “men of great capacity, of pure morals, and of unsurpassed patriotism,” and he agreed with a British observer that the Continental Congress constituted “the most virtuous body of men which ever had met or ever will meet together in this world”—a gathering that not coincidentally included Henry’s slaveholding grandfather Patrick.46 In 1895, George Frisbie Hoar attacked those within the profession who he believed were “addicted [to] … undervaluing, underestimating, falsifying, and belittling the history of their country and the characters of the men who have had a large share in making it.” He enjoined his colleagues to further the cause of American exceptionalism, because no one could love “a country which is altogether unlovely. No man can feel a noble pride in a base history.” Alfred Thayer Mahan cited “the plan of Providence” as a blueprint for the nation. According to several AHA presidents, the backwoodsman belonged in the pantheon of US heroes, embodying the “genius of American democracy” and carrying forth the westward march of capitalism.47 J. Franklin Jameson focused on the roughhewn backwoodsmen, “hearty men, whose outdoor life kept them healthy in mind and body, and whose grasp on the real world had never been relaxed by education.”48 Schlesinger claimed that the turbulent 1940s should impress on all Americans the legacy bequeathed by adventuresome white settlers imbued with “the habit of work”— “the hardest-working people on earth.”49

Some historians apparently seemed oblivious to or willfully ignorant of the dramatic events unfolding in their own time. For example, James Schouler could claim in his 1897 address that Americans eligible to vote faced no impediments in doing so—this when all the former Confederate states were making strenuous efforts to prevent Black men from casting ballots. Edward Channing made it clear that he approved of Black disenfranchisement, since, he said, the Fifteenth Amendment had “led to scenes of lawlessness” in the South. Actually, it was terrorist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan that engaged in lawlessness, not the Black men who were their victims.50 Such pronouncements revealed not just prejudices but a blatant disregard for the facts.

Channing’s address reminds us that terminology matters, that euphemisms can obscure a multitude of sins. He referred to Southern slave owners as “employers” who opposed Northerners’ “interference” in their “labor conditions,” a statement that suggested slaveholders were the progenitors of contemporary antiunion corporate managers. (Today some historians seek to substitute “enslaved person” for “slave” in order not to imply that slavery was the sole signifier in any bound person’s existence. And some scholars are calling for a ban on the benign-sounding “plantation” in favor of “forced labor camp,” which more accurately conveys the horrible reality of the place.) In 1955, Lynn Thorndike cited what he called “racial cleavage” in the context of the trade-offs of modern life, arguing that “no great reform is without some small loss for someone.” He suggested that the lawmakers who outlawed child labor “had no idea that these laws might encourage idleness and be a cause of juvenile delinquency.” Thorndike mourned the social and psychic costs paid by modern peoples: With the invention of electricity, “darkness has lost many of its terrors, but also much of its charm and magic.” He cast a skeptical eye on “reformers” of all stripes, leaving his listeners to wonder how he interpreted a nascent civil rights movement. In 1966, Roy F. Nichols made passing reference to “a world-wide reorientation of peoples,” by which he probably meant the historic drive among Africans for independence from their colonial overlords.51

As historical agents, or even otherwise, people of color and women of all colors lacked much of a presence in presidential addresses for many years. In 1906, Simeon E. Baldwin declared that “women are, by their inherent nature, religious beings. Equality of civil rights before the law will never disturb the poise of that nature … In a … sense is it true that the life of every woman turns on what is to be her relation to some man.” The names of women qua historical actors or historians were few and far between before the late 1980s. In 1887, Justin Winsor mentioned Mercy Warren, the historian of the American Revolution, but dismissed her work as “far from learned in its details.” Worthington C. Ford, in an address titled “The Editorial Function in United States History,” cited Eliza Susan Quincy, editor of Josiah Quincy’s memoir, but singled her out for doing an awful job, “doctor[ing] … altering, omitting, and mutilating” the text.52

The addresses were replete with gendered language, often in service of negative sentiments. When Carl Bridenbaugh wanted to disparage the econometricians and others who relied heavily on quantitative data, he referred to quantification as “that Bitch-goddess.”53 Not unexpectedly, several of the addresses mention Clio, the Muse of history, at times a stand-in for the helpful secretary or Morison’s long-suffering wife. “The American” and “the historian” were almost always white and male, gender-neutral usage not unique to the discipline of history, and still common today in any number of literary and rhetorical contexts.

Attendees at the annual meeting did not hear an address that featured Latin America until 1932, nearly half a century after the association’s founding, when Herbert E. Bolton urged his colleagues to study the two-thirds of the Western Hemisphere of Hispanic origin. Still, his view of Indigenous people was of a decidedly colonialist mentality: of several tribes, including the Aztecs and Incas, he wrote, “These natives were easiest to conquer, were most worth exploiting, and their women made the best cooks.” John K. Fairbank was the first AHA president to devote an address to China, in 1968. Philip D. Curtin, an Africanist, delivered his remarks in 1983 but focused on the need for historians to engage in broad studies and resist specialization (the Americanists were the most “parochial” in their interests, he believed). Joseph C. Miller was the first president, in 1998, to talk at length about the history of Africa. Missing from the speeches of Americanists was attention to Indigenous history, and to Indigenous people generally, except to the extent that (in the words of William F. Poole) “savages” in the form of “Indian scalping parties” proved a hindrance to the march of civilization. Vicki Ruiz broke new ground in 2015 with her address, “Class Acts: Latina Feminist Traditions, 1900–1930,” when she described Hispanic women’s contributions to the US labor movement.54

Although several presidents mentioned enslaved and disenfranchised Black people, no one before John Hope Franklin (in 1979) considered Black men and women as historical actors in their own right. Franklin reminded his listeners that W. E. B. DuBois had published an essay on Reconstruction in a 1910 issue of the American Historical Review and that another Black scholar, John R. Lynch, had rightly pronounced James Ford Rhodes’s work on the postbellum South as “groundless,” “biased,” and “prejudiced.” The historians A. A. Taylor and Horace Mann Bond had also focused on racist views of this period. Yet well into the twentieth century, the “Dunning school” (bolstered by Walter Lynwood Fleming and others) still prevailed in textbooks; generations of schoolchildren learned, falsely, that “‘simple-minded’ freedmen” had unleashed “a carnival of corruption and misrule” throughout the postwar South. Not until Thomas C. Holt delivered his address in 1994 did any AHA president tackle the fraught history of racial ideologies, filling an intellectual vacuum of more than 131 years—this while American history was the chief topic of many addresses. Just as it took a Black historian to consider the subject of Black (men’s) history, so it was a woman, Natalie Zemon Davis, who posited women as subjects worth studying, in her discussion of several women historians from the eighteenth through the twentieth century.55

These long-standing voids were part of a larger trend—the silence among many presidents who effectively erased not only the histories of specific groups but also the political and social upheavals of their own day. For example, a cluster of addresses in the 1960s ignored the ferment of war and protest engulfing many societies, rebellions that many presidents no doubt witnessed firsthand looking out their own office windows. Just as it would be difficult for any president today to ignore the fact that we are still in the midst of a devastating pandemic, so it is puzzling that so many historians in the third quarter of the twentieth century made no mention of the Black civil rights movement, the women’s movement, La Causa for Hispanic farmworkers’ rights, the drive for gay rights, or the protests of Indigenous groups.

While some AHA leaders ignored the upheavals of the 1960s, others went out of their way to express horror at the state of the profession and the (mis)direction of the country. In 1961, Samuel Flagg Bemis offered up the archetypical jeremiad. After the customary nod to the greatness of the Founding Fathers, who created a nation dedicated to the “Blessings of Liberty,” he moved on to the dangers posed by the nation’s spinelessness during the Cold War. Invoking Theodore Roosevelt, he warned that “a great and virile people … can also waste away when it turns to massive self-indulgence.” Bemis had little doubt that the United States had reached a frightful state of military unpreparedness, now that the country was “debauched by mass media of sight and sound, pandering for selfish profit to the lowest level of our easy appetites, fed full of toys and gew-gaws … held back by insidious strikes for less work and more pay.”56

The following year, Carl Bridenbaugh issued a broadside against an emerging generation of historians, the only address to inspire indignant rebuttals in scholarly journals. Echoing Bemis’s alarm, Bridenbaugh trained his sights on a profession whose very survival, he claimed, was at risk. His address, titled “The Great Mutation,” posited that modern life had become so complex, the environment so artificial, that the simple virtues of religious piety and rural living were in danger of disappearing altogether. Bridenbaugh blamed cities for the blight on the soul of the nation; it was in the urban areas that “we see more people, but know fewer; and these are likely to be exclusively of our own kind.” These city dwellers (he apparently had in mind Jews and second-generation immigrants) lacked historical imagination because they were personally unfamiliar with the country’s pioneering spirit. Moreover, he feared that today “we all, teachers and pupils alike, have lost much of what this earlier generation possessed, the priceless asset of a shared culture.” Lest anyone fail to make the connection between city dwellers and the decline of the profession, he offered this analysis: A whole cadre of younger historians “are products of lower middle-class or foreign origins, and their emotions not infrequently get in the way of historical reconstructions.” These intruders were destined to remain “outsiders on our past and feel themselves shut out,” resentful of their marginal status. They saw history only as a source of jobs and not as a higher calling. As if these straits were not dire enough, Bridenbaugh claimed the nuclear family was rapidly receding in American life at the same time history as a discipline was being replaced by the social sciences, which were “even more culturally impoverished than we are.” He seemed remarkably out of touch with transformations in both the profession and the larger US society.57

The addresses of the next fifteen years or so bookended the beginning of my graduate studies (at the University of Wisconsin–Madison) in 1970 and the birth of my second daughter and publication of my second book in 1985. During this time, the presidents seemed particularly free with their advice to younger scholars. For example, in 1972, Thomas C. Cochran surveyed the past dozen years, a period he described as marked by “unusual social problems and basic readjustments” in a variety of institutions, particularly the corporation, the military, and the federal government. Titling his talk “History and Cultural Crisis,” he suggested that these “readjustments” were “manifested in disregard for property, in casual brutality, in the use of strong drugs, and in the vocational uncertainty and chronic protest of youth.” Workers were dissenting from “traditional practice in business” via absenteeism and work stoppages. Antihierarchical impulses had produced cultural crises that in turn signaled a steep decline in “shared values.” According to Cochran, the challenge for historians—and for all citizens—was to develop “some compelling doctrine” based on some iteration of shared values, a worldview that would restore a measure of “orderliness” in the public realm.58

At least some of the presidents during this time pointedly ignored calls for a more inclusive, accurate US history. To mark the bicentennial of the American Revolution, Richard B. Morris gave an address on “We the People.” Despite the title of his talk, Morris offered a traditional narrative shaped primarily by high politics and military conflict. He claimed that “the Founding Fathers never doubted the central role of the people in bringing about the final break with England.” However, he then proceeded to narrow his definition of “the people,” excising all women, indentured servants, Indigenous groups, and people of African descent. Presumably only “free white males” enacted “revolution, change, and reform.” By defining the “American people” as a thin slice of the adult population, Morris’s blinkered view of the revolution made a powerful case for social history while also revealing resistance to (re)emerging trends.59

Several presidents of this period decried the proliferation of specialized studies focusing on specific places and marginalized peoples—the ones whom Morris left out. In 1981, Bernard Bailyn heralded the historian’s use of quantitative data, suggesting they could induce in the scholar “a wonderful euphoria.” However, he deplored the “shapelessness” of modern historiography, characterized (in his view) by scattered studies that produced narratives more confusing than coherent. Two years later, Curtin, too, condemned “narrow specialization” in the discipline and called for scholars to attend to world history, singling out Americanists but also area-studies scholars for their alleged narrow-minded approach to studying the past. He considered particularly apt two “time-honored aphorisms”: “Some of those gaps in our knowledge belong there” and “An elegant answer to an irrelevant question is still irrelevant.” Still, irrelevance was in the eye of the beholder.60

In 1985, William H. McNeill identified what he believed was a marked trend in scholarship since the 1960s—the abandonment of studies “in a WASPish mold,” studies that had located the country’s heritage among “the ancient Greeks and Hebrews.” Now historians were turning to the history of people of color and women, and it was a concern that these historians were themselves people of color and women. The danger in such a trend, he opined, was that scholars who studied a group to which they belonged had a vested interest in portraying that group in a favorable light (a suggestion perhaps ironically demonstrated by the addresses delivered by the AHA’s first eighty white men presidents). Such tendencies produced “vivid, simplified portraits of [a group’s] admirable virtues and undeserved sufferings.” The problem, then, according to McNeill, was that these younger historians brought “emotional intensity” to their work, an impulse best described as a form of “collective self-flattery.” (He seemed not to realize that men were writing women’s history and that white people were writing the history of minority groups.) “Flattering historiography” could serve as an incentive for the group in question to “come closer to living up to its noblest ideals,” but this kind of mythmaking risked yielding two unfortunate outcomes—(1) self-delusion on the part of the group in question and (2) a tribalism that disrupted the national “civic order.” The Cold War, which demanded of US citizens a single-mindedness of purpose, was not the time for “subnational groups [to] acquire a historiography replete with oppressors living next door and, perchance, still enjoying the fruits of past injustices.” In sum, “parochial historiography” (including specialized studies) heightened the chances of internal political conflict when the United States could least afford it.61

Taken together, these presidents of the 1970s and early 1980s offered advice to a rising generation: avoid time- and place-limited case studies and “specialized” topics in general; crunch the numbers; and beware the pitfalls of women’s, Black, and labor history and other topics supposedly conducive to deluded self-flattery and distorted historical analysis. As it happened, my work during those years violated many of these prescriptions so generously offered to younger scholars at the time. My first book examined the Northern teachers of Georgia freedpeople in the eight years after the Civil War. These were mostly the young daughters of New England farmers, clergy, and craftsmen. Their sponsor, the American Missionary Association, recruited idealistic Presbyterians and Congregationalists to go south and complete the Union’s military victory with “an invasion of light and love” spearheaded by teachers and missionaries. My second book, published in 1985, was a history of Black working women from the antebellum period to the present—more expansive in terms of chronology, but still limited in scope with its focus on a particular demographic group. One of my dissertation advisers told me that Soldiers of Light and Love must have some numbers in it, so I included appendices related to the teachers’ backgrounds. Labor of Love featured several tables showing that Black and white Southern sharecropping families had similar family structures in the period after the Civil War. Yet in general my work fell far short of the injunctions of several AHA presidents during the years of my graduate studies and early career.62

While paying homage to my early predecessors, I do want to depart significantly from the tenor of many of the previous talks and refrain from directing my colleagues toward a particular approach to the study of history. Nor do I want to suggest that some of my colleagues are misguided in their choice of subject matter, or that the profession finds itself in peril because of their wasted efforts. Quite the contrary: today the wonderful kaleidoscope of methodologies, time periods, archival sources, and topics indicates a vibrant discipline that needs no heavy-handed advice from any one person or group in order to thrive. Also, I shall just note that I am surprised that no presidential address has explored in detail the dynamics of a discipline transformed by the digitization of countless archival collections and public documents. (I’ll leave it to my successors to describe the effects of social media on comity and enmity among historians.) It is not an exaggeration to say that a substantial number of the books and articles written today could not have been produced ten or twenty years ago.

In the not-too-distant past, historians framed their publics in terms of limited, discrete categories—their peers, other scholars, students, the general reader, the museum goer and historic-site tourist, patrons of state and local historical societies. These publics could be reached by way of specific media—monographs, panels at the annual meeting, lectures and textbooks, “popular” histories and magazines, exhibits, and tour guides. Best-selling books, frequently but not exclusively biographies and stories of war, combined with periodicals such as American Heritage and the Smithsonian magazine and Book of the Month club selections, brought history to audiences outside the academy.

Historians today partake of rich, provocative interdisciplinary conversations about the past, in the process learning from and exchanging ideas with scholars in other disciplines. Indeed, debates about the trajectory of human history—especially works in a resurgent so-called big history (a.k.a. the grand narrative)—are just as likely to be framed by anthropologists, archaeologists, political scientists, geographers, philosophers, and psychologists as historians. At stake are definitions of “progress” and the meaning of early transitions from nomadic to agricultural societies. Was the change from roving bands of hunters and gatherers to industrial urban centers a linear one marked by increasingly bureaucratic and complex social structures? From the Ice Age to the present, were groups of people hostage to larger material forces that drove these changes, or did they retain the ability to make choices about their own political and economic structures? While these big questions have been the perennial purview of the historian, they remind us that these questions also capture the attention and imagination of multiple publics within the academy itself.63

Yet today we have broadened and complicated the notion of our publics in response to several developments. New digital platforms have enhanced both the study of history and its distribution to people of all ages all over the country. Because of their creativity and even entrepreneurial impulses, some historians have embraced a broader view of their discipline, and their insights have seeped into the public consciousness via many kinds of media. And, too, in a highly partisan age, history has reemerged as a cultural battleground, with the future of the country seemingly hinging on our notion of the past. Historians now make a concerted effort to communicate not only to an amorphous general public but also to targeted groups, from those defined by their ethnic and cultural heritage to policy makers and politicians to military officials. Admittedly, outreach to these last groups has proved problematic. Immediately after the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (a branch of the nation’s military) sought to explain to a US State Department official the history of US-Pakistan relations and the history of the Taliban in particular. The US official dismissed the Pakistani general, saying, “We’re talking about the future, and for you and for us history starts today,” ending the conversation.64 Despite the fact that the US government employs many historians, as a nation, we often conduct foreign and domestic policy as if “history starts today,” in violation of the AHA’s injunction that “everything has a history.”

A survey of multiple venues for historical scholarship and interpretation reveals a wide array of the ways that nonacademics encounter history today. With massive digitized collections available on public sites such as the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, the Smithsonian, and a plethora of state and local historical societies, scholars and nonscholars alike can review the country’s founding documents as well as specialized materials. Major news outlets, whether print, TV, or online, regularly interview professional historians to provide context for current events. The news and opinion site Politico runs the “History Dept.,” devoted to historians’ perspectives on political figures and issues of the day. (In the summer of 2015, asked to compare the recently announced presidential candidate Donald Trump to a historical figure, I suggested the Mississippi demagogue James K. Vardaman.)65 The Washington Post carries regular features that illuminate the past—“Made by History” consists of opinion pieces by historians, and “Retropolis” often explores some facet of history in the Chesapeake region. In 2018, the New York Times began a recurring feature of obituaries of notable persons who were deemed unworthy of notice at the time they died (“Overlooked”), including such figures as the antilynching activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett and the writer Charlotte Brontë.

On August 14, 2019, the Times published the 1619 Project, edited by prizewinning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. Marking the four-hundred-year anniversary of the arrival of Africans in Virginia, the project consisted of ten essays written by scholars and journalists, as well as a collection of original poems and stories. In her original introduction (since revised), Hannah-Jones argued that the American colonists sought to break from Britain in order to preserve the institution of slavery, an interpretation that challenged traditional views of the nation’s founding.66 Taken together, the project’s contributors highlighted slavery’s enduring, destructive effects on American society—effects that continue to this day in the areas of health care, residential segregation, reactionary politics, prison brutality, and the wealth gap between Blacks and whites. Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, but certain aspects of the project provoked pointed criticism from professional historians who disputed her view of the revolution and her argument that the nation’s true founding began in 1619. Some critics outside the academy mistook this debate among historians for proof that the project had no legitimate value, scholarly or otherwise. In fact, historians routinely spar with each other over interpretations of the past. In any case, conservative politicians, scholars, and media personalities denounced not only the substance of the project but the motivation behind it—supposedly leftist propaganda designed to divide the country and detract from the achievements of the Founding Fathers.67

Just as newspaper readers might learn about cutting-edge historical scholarship over their morning coffee, people of all ages on school outings and family vacations might engage with the material manifestations of that scholarship. Inspired and enlightened by recent work on the history of slavery, many museums and historic sites have incorporated into their architectural configurations, narration, and websites the stories of enslaved workers. Colonial Williamsburg and Mount Vernon in Virginia; the Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters in Savannah, Georgia; and the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana are prime examples of these efforts to educate the public about the family lives, labors, foodways, and housing of people long ignored by these sites. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (opened in 1993), the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (2004), and the National Museum of African American History and Culture (2016) attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Throughout the country, historic-site designation and the placement and wording of historical markers bring to light atrocities long since hidden away from passersby and even long-term residents.68

Several universities have explored their own complicity in the institution of slavery, and the results of investigative committees and commissions have heightened public awareness of the way the institution of bondage was embedded in the educational and cultural structures of colonial and antebellum America. These reports have led to efforts to compensate descendants of enslaved people who either worked at or were sold from colleges and universities (Georgetown), and to transform the built and natural environment of an institution to reveal the spatial arrangements of a school that relied on the labor of enslaved men, women, and children (University of Virginia). In some cases, the origins of archival collections can shed light on the ideological motives of their founding curators (the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina).69 Students, faculty, and administrators have scrutinized the names of buildings, the lyrics of alma maters, the meanings of public statuary and other monuments, and the titles attached to endowments to reveal the ways that slaveholders and slavery apologists have been honored on college campuses. In best-case scenarios, professional historians contribute to wide-ranging discussions among multiple constituencies about ways to recognize historical figures and memorialize events of the past. More generally, all these controversies—whether generated by universities, city councils, or school boards—have helped to educate a broad public about history.

Films, plays, musicals, and fiction dealing with historical themes reach large audiences. Commercial theaters and TV channels air a plethora of documentary films dealing with a wide range of topics, too numerous to list here. Hollywood and independent studios market fictionalized, scripted nonfiction, and documentary historical films, to mass audiences. In 2015, the blockbuster musical on Broadway was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, a show with a multiracial cast and a variety of musical styles with catchy tunes and inspired rhymes and rhythms, all in service of exploring the aspirations and hypocrisies of the Founding Fathers from a distinctly modern-day point of view. The show and ensuing debates over its historical accuracy (it was based on the Ron Chernow biography) made Alexander Hamilton, immigrant and outsider, an undeniable if unlikely cultural touchstone for the early twenty-first century.70

A 2020 survey conducted by the AHA in conjunction with Fairleigh Dickinson University found that many respondents prefer to consume history as a form of entertainment.71 Created in 1995, the History Channel has achieved an enduring popularity. Video games, films, and cable TV offerings such as “drunk,” “forgotten,” and “crooked” history offer a lively take on the past, though of course their claims to scholarly rigor are uneven. Public history websites such as the University of Texas at Austin’s Not Even Past include an arresting mix of videos, images, podcasts, and texts that make interviews, primary documents, and book reviews accessible to the general reader and listener and appropriate for use in the classroom. Individual historians produce personal blogs and podcasts that offer a near-daily running commentary on historical perspectives on the news, with the most successful of these media boasting hundreds of thousands of paid subscribers.72

Many people encounter history via stories passed down through the generations about their own families; photo albums, diaries, and objects such as quilts and antique furniture are ubiquitous primary sources, written and material.73 Genealogy constitutes an entrée into history for individuals and families, reminding us that many people outside the profession are avid amateur historians. They send in swabs to private companies in search of information on the geographical and ethnic dimensions of their ancestry; they employ professional genealogists to ferret out facts about their own forebears; and they use a wealth of online sources—historic newspapers, census, ship passenger lists, and other information—to grow their own family trees. They take advantage of family gatherings to probe the memories of elders and make certain that younger generations understand their own heritage.

TV shows that trace a particular person’s ancestry have also gained popularity in the last few years; these programs make use of conventional literary sources, but they also showcase the wealth of information to be gleaned from online databases. Programs such as Who Do You Think You Are? and PBS’s Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. focus on celebrities and often employ ingenious methods to reveal individuals’ forebears, in some cases tracking them back many generations. In a related vein, some local groups seek to identify and honor long-departed kin and community members by exploring the history of overgrown, hitherto neglected cemeteries, including the New York African Burial Ground; the Philadelphia Bethel Burying Ground; and the San José cemeteries in Montopolis, Texas. Groups such as the Friends of Geer Cemetery in Durham, North Carolina, work with archaeologists and local churches and historic-preservation groups to preserve these sites and identify the remains of those interred in them. Individual states also sponsor such efforts, and the federal government has created the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund (part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation) to aid in these efforts.74

The fact that history is seemingly everywhere these days should not prevent us from acknowledging serious ongoing threats to the historical enterprise. One threat comes primarily from employers who seek a cheap labor pool. The AHA has addressed the vulnerabilities of contingent and adjunct faculty—their low pay, job insecurity, and marginal departmental status. These instructors lack the resources of their tenured and tenure-track counterparts, including health insurance and travel and research funds. Too often their departments treat them like second-class citizens. Without a union, many of them have no control over their own workplace or assignments. As higher-education budget cutters continue to reduce labor costs—at public universities, often at the behest of state legislators—the ranks of these historians will increase, and the production of historical scholarship will suffer.75

Too, administrators seeking to—or forced to—cut costs are increasingly eyeing humanities departments, history included, as low-hanging fruit easy for the picking. Some of these efforts are driven by financial concerns, but others are prompted by the erroneous notion that it is only the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and medicine—that offer students a gateway to well-paid jobs and viable careers. The anti-intellectualism that has been a hallmark of American society persists through the generations and finds expression today in politicians’ crowd-pleasing calls for universities to transform themselves into vocational schools.

Universities are not the only educational institutions to register the effects of a politicized skepticism toward experts and scholarly expertise. Public K–12 schools have long been sites of bitter conflict, with state legislators, school administrators, teachers, parents, and students clashing over racial integration, curricular matters, the teaching of evolution, the role of athletics, free speech, and students’ privacy rights, among many other issues. Yet in the fall of 2021, local school board meetings assumed a new and even violent tone as some parents protested vaccine and mask mandates—essential public-health measures for fighting the spread of COVID-19, but now denounced as threats to personal “liberty”—and also objected to the teaching of what they (mistakenly) called “critical race theory.” The theory, which originated in law schools, focused on the racial prejudice and practices embedded in institutions and structures; it was not part of the K–12 public school curriculum.

In this hyperpartisan time, a heroic-romantic view of the country’s founding achieved renewed expression in public denunciations of a more inclusive history. Much of the appeal of presidential candidate and then president Donald Trump was his evocation of a “greater” American past. In a March 2016 interview with the New York Times editorial board, he explained what historical periods he had in mind when he called for a national effort to “make America great again.” He said, “It was the turn of the [twentieth] century … when we were really starting to go robust … A pretty wild time for this country and pretty wild in terms of building that machine, that machine was really based on entrepreneurship etc., etc. And then I would say … during the 1940s and the late ’40s and ’50s … we were not pushed around, we were respected by everybody, we had just won a war, we were pretty much doing what we had to do.”76

The timing was no coincidence when, in 2020, President Trump appointed a “1776 Commission” immediately after the publication of the New York Times 1619 Project. The swift backlash against the project in some quarters represented a strenuous effort to deny or ignore key aspects of America’s past, but the fact that the project existed at all was testament to the increasingly vital role that historians were playing in public discourse: scholarship had spilled out of the Ivy Tower and onto the streets. Indeed, the widespread dissemination of a more accurate history alarmed conservatives who believed they were already losing “culture wars” in the universities and now feared losing the K–12 public “school board wars” as well. With no author’s name attached—the commission lacked any professional historians of the US—The 1776 Report reprised the old canard that teaching an inclusive historical narrative somehow dealt a death blow to patriotism, the family, private property, capitalism, and the noble ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. The commissioners and their allies embraced a blissful ignorance about the nation’s past. Riddled with errors, comparing Progressive-era social-settlement workers and antichild labor activists with European fascists, charging that American universities were hotbeds of radicalism and subversion, the report represented propaganda in a pure, unadulterated form.77

At the state level, this reactionary effort manifested itself in legislation that outlawed ill-defined “divisive concepts” and turned parents into vigilantes authorized to sue teachers suspected of mentioning critical race theory. In the crosshairs were materials dealing with the history of slavery, white supremacy, and racist violence. Meanwhile, school board meetings became increasingly contentious, punctuated by shouting matches, the hurling of epithets and obscenities, and even the brandishing of weapons. In some states, a well-founded sense of paranoia gripped not only K–12 public school teachers but also instructors in public community colleges and universities, where the vague wording of legislation cast a shadow over assigned readings, lectures, and class discussions. As state employees, faculty at these institutions felt particularly vulnerable under circumstances that evoked the hysteria of the McCarthy era.78

In response to these and other challenges to the study and teaching of history, the AHA has engaged in robust advocacy work, extending its reach to multiple publics within the realm of history research and teaching—publics not envisioned by the early presidents of the association: K–12 teachers, archivists and museum curators, ordinary citizens engaged in the renaming of streets and buildings and the removal of statues, graduate students hoping to find a job outside the academy, undergraduates in history survey courses, adjuncts and contract workers laboring under exploitative conditions, scholars in foreign countries prosecuted and persecuted for their research, college and university history departments threatened with closure, conference goers harassed and threatened by online trolls. The AHA regularly denounces threats to academic freedom as well as measures designed to deny historians access to records and archives. The association provides historical context to national controversies, including those related to gay marriage, reproductive rights, censorship of historical materials and findings, controversial statues and building names, police brutality in the United States, and the destruction of government records. It also joins with other scholarly organizations in advocacy efforts. In 2020, the AHA’s statement on the history of racist violence—prompted by the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis—garnered the support of ninety-seven scholarly groups representing many different subfields of history, as well as several other disciplines. In June of 2021, the AHA partnered with the American Association of University Professors, PEN America, and the Association of American Colleges and Universities to issue a joint statement on pernicious legislation designed to limit the teaching of racism and so-called divisive concepts; 152 organizations signed the statement. That fall, the AHA claimed as affiliates 130 other groups, and its coalitions routinely collaborated with other associations to advance the study of history, history education, and scholarship generally, including the American Council of Learned Societies and the Learn from History coalition.

In 2021, the AHA maintained a Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Instagram account. It provided educators at all levels with bibliographies, historical perspectives on a range of issues, and webinars on teaching difficult subjects. The American Historical Review reflected the reality of these new media, sponsoring podcasts and special features. The June 2021 issue included an article on “community-engaged history,” about the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma, massacre, and another article accessible via Instagram, both under the History Unclassified initiative, “which seeks to explore new modes of historical production and to experiment with novel means of creating narratives about the past.”79

The early 2020s highlighted the countervailing forces related to the study and teaching of the past—on the one hand, a robust discipline distinguished by the creativity and public outreach on the part of professionals, with history more than ever a lively presence in the lives of many Americans, and, on the other, a discipline and a profession under siege by hero-worshippers, cynical politicians, and institutional budget cutters. By making stories about the past available to all sorts of publics, scholars seek to counter mythmaking and contribute to a broader educational enterprise—one that is essential to the future of history and, indeed, democracy itself.

Looking back at the AHA presidential addresses inspires a sense of humility in the reader not because our predecessors were somehow more enlightened than we but because we can predict that a century from now our successors will take us to task for any number of wrongheaded impulses and practices—perhaps our insensitive terminology, or our failure to make use of rich archival collections hiding in plain sight, or our stubborn devotion to the monograph and scholarly article, or our primitive research tools now replaced by sophisticated technological innovations and scientific insights. The study of history remains a work in progress, and regardless of our time period or specialty, we can no doubt agree that contributing to that work remains a privilege and an honor for us all.

Jacqueline Jones is Ellen C. Temple Chair in Women’s History and Mastin Gentry White Professor of Southern History Emerita at the University of Texas at Austin, where she served as Director of Graduate Studies (2010–14) and Chair of the Department (2014–20). She has received, among other awards, the Bancroft Prize in American History and a MacArthur Fellowship. She is author of, most recently, Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical(2017). She is currently completing a book-length study of Black workers in Boston during the era of the Civil War. Her books Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present(rev. ed. 2009) and A Dreadful Deceit: The Myth of Race from the Colonial Period to Obama’s America(2013) were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in History.



The author would like to acknowledge the helpful suggestions of Silvia Marina Arrom, Ellen Fitzpatrick, George Forgie, Jim Grossman, and Liz Townsend.


  1. Timothy Snyder, “Forced Forgetting,” New York Times Magazine, July 4, 2021, 38. For an example of a US memory law, see the Texas law “relating to the social studies curriculum in public schools” (HB 3979), which went into effect on September 1, 2021. Isabella Zou and Jason Kao, “Texas Teachers Say GOP’s New Social Studies Law Will Hinder How an Entire Generation Understands Race, History and Current Events,” Texas Tribune, August 3, 2021. []
  2. Many historians have written with insight and analytical rigor about specific aspects of the historical profession and history as a discipline. General introductions to the field include R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History (1946; repr., New York, 1993); Edward Hallett Carr, What Is History? (New York, 1961); Sarah Maza, Thinking about History (Chicago, 2017); and Lynn Hunt, History: Why It Matters (Medford, MA, 2018). On shifting interpretations of the past, see James M. Banner, The Ever-Changing Past: Why All History Is Revisionist History (New Haven, 2021). For a critique of postmodernism, see Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacob, Telling the Truth about History (New York, 1994). On “objectivity,” see Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The “Objectivity Question” and the American Historical Profession (Cambridge, 1988). Ellen Fitzpatrick, in History’s Memory: Writing America’s Past, 1880–1980 (Cambridge, MA, 2004), documents the prevalence of social history from the beginning of the profession. On historians’ (pre-1970) publics, see Ian Tyrrell, Historians in Public: The Practice of American History, 1890–1970 (Chicago, 2005). []
  3. The presidential addresses are online, accessible by date and by last name of the presenter. See “Presidential Addresses,” American Historical Association (website), accessed January 13, 2022. Initial references in this essay will cite the name of the president, the title of the address, and the date. []
  4. Louis R. Harlan, “The Future of the American Historical Association,” 1989; Gordon Wright, “History as a Moral Science,” 1975. []
  5. Emil Pocock, “Presidents of the American Historical Association: A Statistical Analysis,” American Historical Review 89, no. 4 (October 1984): 1016–36. []
  6. Allen Mikaelian, “Meet Nellie Neilson,” Perspectives on History, April 1, 2012. []
  7. Arthur M. Schlesinger, “What Then Is the American, This New Man?,” 1942. []
  8. Samuel Eliot Morison, “Faith of a Historian,” 1950. []
  9. Charles A. Beard, “Written History as an Act of Faith,” 1933; Charles McIlwain, “The Historian’s Part in a Changing World,” 1936; Morison, “Faith of a Historian.” []
  10. Andrew Dickson White, “On Studies in General History and the History of Civilization,” 1884; Fitzpatrick, History’s Memory; “Anti-slavery Collections at Cornell,” Cornell University Library, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (website), accessed January 13, 2022. []
  11. Edward Eggleston, “The New History,” 1900. []
  12. Albert Bushnell Hart, “Imagination in History,” 1909. []
  13. Carlton J. H. Hayes, “The American Frontier—Frontier of What?,” 1945. []
  14. James Burrill Angell, “The Inadequate Recognition of Diplomatists by Historians,” 1892–93. []
  15. Michael I. Rostovtzeff, “The Hellenistic World and Its Economic Development,” 1935; James Westfall Thompson, “The Age of Mabillon and Montfaucon,” 1941; Nellie Neilson, “The Early Pattern of the Common Law,” 1943. []
  16. Morison, “Faith of a Historian”; H. Morse Stephens, “Nationality and History,” 1915; Charles M. Andrews, “The American Revolution: An Interpretation,” 1925. []
  17. Hayes, “The American Frontier—Frontier of What?” []
  18. Sidney B. Fay, “The Idea of Progress,” 1946. []
  19. Walter Prescott Webb, “History as High Adventure,” 1958. []
  20. George Park Fisher, “The Function of the Historian as a Judge of Historic Persons,” 1898. []
  21. Charles F. Adams, “An Undeveloped Function,” 1901; Evarts Boutell Greene, “Persistent Problems of Church and State,” 1930. []
  22. Frank W. Blackmar, The History of Federal and State Aid to Higher Education in the United States (Washington, DC, 1890), 39, quoted in John Jay, “The Demand for Education in American History,” 1890. []
  23. Theodore Roosevelt, “History as Literature,” 1912. []
  24. Henry Charles Lea, “Ethical Values in History,” 1903. []
  25. Lea, “Ethical Values in History.” []
  26. Louis Gottschalk, “A Professor of History in a Quandary,” 1953. []
  27. Thomas Babington Macaulay, review of The Romance of History, by Henry Neele, Edinburgh Review 47 (May 1828): 331, quoted in Goldwin Smith, “The Treatment of History,” 1904; Hart, “Imagination in History.” []
  28. Henry Adams, “The Tendency of History,” 1893–94; William Roscoe Thayer, “Vagaries of Historians,” 1918–19; Beard, “Written History as an Act of Faith.” []
  29. Adams, “An Undeveloped Function”; Guy Stanton Ford, “Some Suggestions to American Historians,” 1937; George Frisbie Hoar, “Popular Discontent with Representative Government,” 1895. []
  30. Theresa L. Miller, Emilie L’Hôte, and Andrew Volmert, Communicating about History: Challenges, Opportunities, and Emerging Recommendations (Washington, DC, 2020). []
  31. Charles K. Adams, “Recent Historical Work in the Colleges and Universities of Europe and America,” 1889. []
  32. Charles M. Andrews, “These Forty Years,” 1924. []
  33. James Ford Rhodes, “History,” 1899; Smith, “The Treatment of History”; Roosevelt, “History as Literature”; Dana C. Munro, “War and History,” 1926; Thompson, “The Age of Mabillon and Montfaucon.” []
  34. Carl Lotus Becker, “Everyman His Own Historian,” 1931. []
  35. Dexter Perkins, “We Shall Gladly Teach,” 1956. []
  36. William M. Sloane, “History and Democracy,” American Historical Review 1, no. 1 (October 1895): 1–23, here 6, 8, 3. []
  37. Max Farrand, “The Quality of Distinction,” 1940; Morison, “Faith of a Historian”; Becker, “Everyman His Own Historian”; Conyers Read, “The Social Responsibilities of the Historian,” 1949; James G. Randall, “Historianship,” 1952. []
  38. Charles Homer Haskins, “European History and American Scholarship,” 1922; John Bach McMaster, “Old Standards of Public Morals,” 1905; Randall, “Historianship.” []
  39. Morison, “Faith of a Historian.” []
  40. Allan Nevins, “Not Capulets, Not Montagus,” 1959. []
  41. Henry Osborn Taylor, “A Layman’s View of History,” 1927; Read, “The Social Responsibilities of the Historian.” []
  42. Merle Curti, “Intellectuals and Other People,” 1954. []
  43. William Wirt Henry, “The Causes Which Produced the Virginia of the Revolutionary Period,” 1891. []
  44. Worthington C. Ford, “The Editorial Function in United States History,” 1917; Edward Channing, “An Historical Retrospect,” 1920. []
  45. William A. Dunning, “Truth in History,” 1913. []
  46. Henry, “The Causes Which Produced the Virginia of the Revolutionary Period.” []
  47. Hoar, “Popular Discontent with Representative Government”; Alfred Thayer Mahan, “Subordination in Historical Treatment,” 1902; Andrew C. McLaughlin, “American History and American Democracy,” 1914. []
  48. J. Franklin Jameson, “The American Acta Sanctorum,” 1907. []
  49. Schlesinger, “What Then Is the American, This New Man?” []
  50. James Schouler, “A New Federal Convention,” 1897; Channing, “An Historical Retrospect.” []
  51. Channing, “An Historical Retrospect”; Lynn Thorndike, “Whatever Was, Was Right,” 1955; Roy F. Nichols, “History in a Self-Governing Culture,” 1966. []
  52. Simeon E. Baldwin, “Religion Still the Key to History,” 1906; Justin Winsor, “Manuscript Sources of American History: The Conspicuous Collections Extant,” 1886–87; Ford, “The Editorial Function in United States History.” []
  53. Carl Bridenbaugh, “The Great Mutation,” 1962. []
  54. Herbert E. Bolton, “The Epic of Greater America,” 1932; John K. Fairbank, “Assignment for the ‘70s,” 1968; Philip D. Curtin, “Depth, Span, and Relevance,” 1983; Joseph C. Miller, “History and Africa/Africa and History,” 1998; William F. Poole, “The Early Northwest,” 1887–88; Vicki Ruiz, “Class Acts: Latina Feminist Traditions, 1900–1930,” 2015. []
  55. John Hope Franklin, “Mirror for Americans: A Century of Reconstruction History,” 1979; Thomas C. Holt, “Marking: Race, Race-Making, and the Writing of History,” 1994; Natalie Zemon Davis, “History’s Two Bodies,” 1987. []
  56. Samuel Flagg Bemis, “American Foreign Policy and the Blessings of Liberty,” 1961. []
  57. Bridenbaugh, “The Great Mutation.” For critiques, see Joan Wallach Scott, “History in Crisis? The Others’ Side of the Story,” American Historical Review 94, no. 3 (June 1989): 680–92; William Palmer, “Carl Bridenbaugh, American Colonial History and Academic Antisemitism: The Paths to the ‘Great Mutation,’” American Jewish History 98, no. 3 (July 2014): 153–74; Fitzpatrick, History’s Memory; and Lawrence W. Levine, “The Historian and the Culture Gap,” in The Historian’s Workshop: Original Essays by Sixteen Historians, ed. L. Perry Curtis Jr. (New York, 1970), 307–26. []
  58. Thomas C. Cochran, “History and Cultural Crisis,” 1972. []
  59. Richard B. Morris, “‘We the People of the United States’: The Bicentennial of a People’s Revolution,” 1976. []
  60. Bernard Bailyn, “The Challenge of Modern Historiography,” 1981; Curtin, “Depth, Span, and Relevance.” []
  61. William H. McNeill, “Mythistory, or Truth, Myth, History, and Historians,” 1985. []
  62. Jacqueline Jones, Soldiers of Light and Love: Northern Teachers and Georgia Blacks, 1865–1873 (Chapel Hill, 1980); Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present (1985; repr., New York, 2009). []
  63. See, for example, David Graeber and David Wengrow, The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity (New York, 2021); David Nirenberg and Ricardo L. Nirenberg, Uncountable: A Philosophical History of Number and Humanity from Antiquity to the Present (Chicago, 2021); James C. Scott, Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States (New Haven, 2017); Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (New York, 2015); Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress (New York, 2019); and Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (New York, 1999). []
  64. Richard Armitage, interview, Frontline, PBS, April 19, 2002, accessed January 17, 2022. The general was Mahmud Ahmed. []
  65. Donald Trump Is … ,” Politico, August 29, 2015. []
  66. Nikole Hannah-Jones, Caitlin Roper, Ilena Silverman, and Jake Silverstein, eds., The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story (New York, 2021). []
  67. David Waldstreicher, “The Hidden Stakes of the 1619 Controversy,” Boston Review, January 23, 2020. []
  68. See “Slavery,” Mount Vernon (website), accessed January 17, 2022; Leslie M. Harris and Daina Ramey Berry, eds., Slavery and Freedom in Savannah (Athens, GA, 2014); Clint Smith, How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery across America (New York, 2021); and Simon Romero, “Lynch Mobs Killed Latinos across the West. The Fight to Remember These Atrocities Is Just Starting,” New York Times, March 2, 2019. []
  69. Craig Steven Wilder, Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities (New York, 2013); Pam Kelley, “The Archivist for the Lost Cause,” Assembly, August 18, 2021. []
  70. Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton (New York, 2004). []
  71. Peter Burkholder and Dana Schaffer, History, the Past, and Public Culture: Results from a National Survey (Washington, DC, 2021). []
  72. Ben Smith, “Heather Cox Richardson Offers a Break from the Media Maelstrom. It’s Working,” New York Times, December 27, 2020. []
  73. Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen, The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life (New York, 1998). []
  74. Jill Lepore, “The Underworld,” New Yorker, October 4, 2021, 34–45; Rolando Rodriguez, “Meet the Digital Age Trailblazers Trying to Preserve Austin’s Latino History,” Austin American-Statesman, June 13, 2021. []
  75. See “Resources for Contingent Faculty,” American Historical Association (website), accessed January 17, 2022. []
  76. “Transcript: Donald Trump Expounds on His Foreign Policy Views,” New York Times, March 26, 2016. []
  77. The 1776 Report (Washington, DC, 2021), accessed January 17, 2022. See Michael Kazin, “The 1776 Follies,” New York Times, February 1, 2021; Jake Silverstein, “The 1619 Project and the Long Battle over U.S. History,” New York Times, November 9, 2021; and Jonathan Zimmerman, Whose America? Culture Wars in the Public Schools (Cambridge, MA, 2002). []
  78. The 1776 Project PAC (political action committee) gives as its mission “promoting patriotism and pride in American history” and encourages those who visit its site to “report a school promoting critical race theory.” 1776 Project PAC (website), accessed January 17, 2022. See also Jon Michaels and David Noll, “We Are Becoming a Nation of Vigilantes,” New York Times, September 4, 2021; Beth McMurtrie, “‘Be Paranoid’: Professors Who Teach about Race Approach the Fall with Anxiety,” Chronicle of Higher Education, August 13, 2021; Michelle Cottle, “America’s School Board Meetings Are Getting Weird—and Scary,” New York Times, September 6, 2021; and Michael Powell, “In Texas, a Battle over What Can Be Taught, and What Books Can Be Read,” New York Times, December 10, 2021. []
  79. Introduction to William Gallois, “An Illumination of a Floating World,” American Historical Review 126, no. 2 (June 2021): 708–9, here 708. []