What We’re Reading: April 5, 2012
This week we link to articles on the 1940 Census release, a new Civil War casualty number, the future of the AHA and other professional societies, and more.
- 1940 census searchers overload US website
Earlier this week we reported on the online release of digitized 1940 Census data, 72 years after it was collected. The National Archives reports the site received over 37 million hits in the first seven hours, temporarily crashing the website. See also the 1940 Census page on the census website, which offers data visualization, census videos, notable events in the 1940s, and even the top songs of 1940.
- ProQuest Picks up Where the Census Bureau Left Off
In a small piece of good news, ProQuest announced that it will rescue an invaluable research tool for historians, The Statistical Abstract of the United States, which recently lost funding from the federal government.
- Paul S. Boyer, 76, Dies; Historian Studied A-Bomb and Witches
Intellectual historian Paul S. Boyer passed away from cancer last month at the age of 76. The New York Times looks back at his life and work.
- New Estimate Raises Civil War Death Toll
Demographic historian David Hacker has analyzed digitized census data to recalculate Civil War casualty numbers, raising the previously accepted death toll by 20 percent.
- National Park Service Launches Civil War Website
The National Park Service has launched a new Civil War website, featuring war stories, biographies of notable participants, information on Civil War battlefields, and more.
- The Ordeal: Evaluation and the Production of Historians
Are the hurdles for professional historians too high? Are they fairly applied? Greg Kennedy ponders these questions and more in his article, “The Ordeal.”
- Only a Historian
In a thought-provoking essay, Sean Takats calls historians to task for failing to work on their digital skills.
- The Foreign Language Requirement
Should historians do more to burnish their language skills in the course of training for the PhD? Over the past week, Erik Loomis and L.D. Burnett debated the merits of the requirement, and what it means as an impediment to scholars in training.
- Scholarly Groups’ Choices Yield Diverging Fortunes
In an assessment of the state of scholarly societies, looking behind-the-scenes at past decisions and current financials, the Chronicle of Higher Education notes the challenges the AHA and similar associations face in the years to come. See the graph and article.
- The American Historical Association Tuning project
Sherman Dorn captures some of the challenges of the AHA’s Tuning project, recently undertaken with support from Lumina Foundation, and worries that the “result of the AHA’s Tuning effort will be a far-too-vague list of skills that address neither the craft temperament of a working historian nor the grounding of that temperament in the study of specific times, places, and combinations thereof.”
- History hinders creation of East Asian community
Historian Chung Jae-jeong talks to the Korea Times about how conflicting interpretations of the past are preventing constructive dialog among East Asian nations about the present. He suggests a “history summit” to find “mutual understanding over controversial historical issues” but is skeptical that such a meeting can take place.
- A tale of two libraries and a revolution
AHA Past President Anthony Grafton talks about some of the hard choices for libraries and their users, as the New York Public Library and Princeton’s Firestone Library renovate and reallocate their collections of print books.
- The Public’s Role in Active History
For a view of the profession from north of the border, Jeffers Lennox at ActiveHistory.ca notes recent critiques of academics in Canada, ponders the role of the public in history, and wonders why historians in the U.S. seem better engaged.
- Humanities and Public Life
Teresa Mangum, director of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies and associate professor of English at the University of Iowa, discusses the University of Iowa Press’s new book series on "Humanities and Public Life."
Contributors: Elisabeth Grant, James Grossman, Vernon Horn, Allen Mikaelian, Pillarisetti Sudhir, and Robert B. Townsend.
This post first appeared on AHA Today.
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