AHA Today

What We’re Reading: July 25, 2013

AHA Staff | Jul 25, 2013

Today’s What We’re Reading features reactions to the AHA’s statement on flexible digital dissertation access, Anthony Grafton gets “memed,” recaps of SHEAR 2013, the rise and fall of Detroit, and much more!

Roundup of Reactions to the AHA Embargo Statement

The AHA’s recent Statement on Policies Regarding the Embargoing of Completed History PhD Dissertations has generated wide discussion on the web. Below is a roundup of responses, both by journalists and historians. As always, we welcome further discussion on this issue.

Among the number of press outlets who picked up the statement, the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed offered a digest of the statement, and reactions around the discipline.

Sharon Leon has created a space for continued conversation at Digital Historians, including links to articles from Trevor Owens and Adam Crymble, who take opposing approaches to the controversy. Owens imagines an alternative statement, based upon considerations of open access and alternative models for publication. Crymble, on the other hand, argues that students should “be empowered, not bullied” into publishing their dissertations online.


Academic Freedom in the Classroom

In light of recently released e-mail correspondence of former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and his staff relating to the assignment of Howard Zinn’s work by an Indiana University faculty member, the AHA released a statement deploring “the spirit and intent” of the 2010 e-mails.

Former Ind. Gov Says He Didn’t Want K-12 Students to Read Historian Zinn’s Work

The Associated Press and Washington Post picked up the AHA’s statement on the controversy: “The American Historical Association, a nonpartisan group that sets academic standards of review and publication for historians nationwide, on Friday issued a statement saying it ‘deplores the spirit and intent’ of Daniels’ emails. The association said it considered any governor’s effort to interfere with an individual teacher’s reading assignments ‘inappropriate and a violation of academic freedom.’” The statement was also picked up by Democracy Now, Inside Higher Ed, and the Huffington Post, among others.

Several members of the Purdue faculty wrote “An Open Letter to Mitch Daniels,” and Mitch Daniels responded. The full text of the e-mails that sparked the controversy can be found here: Read Mitch Daniels’ Emails about Howard Zinn.

History in the News
Detroit’s Downfall: Decline of Autos, Troubled Racial History Blamed for City’s Decline

The Washington Post takes a historical perspective on the Detroit bankruptcy. In an alternative piece, Thomas Sugrue, former AHA Council member, offers his own reflections of the rise and fall of Detroit, both as a scholar and Detroit native.


On the Historian’s Eye

Sam Redman interviews historian Matthew Frye Jacobson about his oral history project, Historian’s Eye, and how oral histories equip historians to listen, even without a tape recorder.

A Mysterious History of “Marijuana”

Matt Thompson for NPR takes a look at “how we came to call cannabis ‘marijuana,’ and the role Mexico played in that shift.”

Do the Lessons of History Still Apply to War?

In a review essay, Victor Davis Hanson writes, “Contemporary conflict has been so altered by post-industrial technologies, some modernists argue, that we must adopt commensurately new ways of understanding war-making. In contrast, the classical view insists that war remains a human enterprise.”

A Religious Legacy, with Its Leftward Tilt, Is Reconsidered

At the New York Times, “After decades of work bringing evangelicals, Mormons and other long-neglected religious groups into the broader picture, these scholars contend, the historical profession is overdue for a ‘mainline moment.’”

Anthony Grafton: How I Write

Former AHA President Anthony Grafton talks to the Daily Beast about the state of his field, his quirky office space (a crocodile hangs from the ceiling), and his writing process, which includes writing an impressive 3,500 words every morning.

L.D. Burnett took Grafton’s Q/A as a challenge, and planned a friendly competition/race to break Grafton’s daily writing goal, and in the process created the hashtag #graftonline, where historians can post their writing quota for the day.


If you missed the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) conference last weekend, you can catch up on session panels via the official SHEAR hashtag, which has a number of session recaps and colorful commentary.

An Open Letter to the Historians of the 22nd Century

Larry Cebula pens an open letter/apology to future generations of historians (and archivists) at Slate, and asks “What if Thomas Jefferson Had a Facebook page?” As Cebula notes, future generations of historians will benefit (or resent) the massive proliferation of public documents today’s generation of scholars creates online.

New Shoah Book is Hit Among Non-Jewish Iranians

Dr. Ari Babaknia, an Iranian Jewish doctor, has penned first-ever Farsi-language history book about the holocaust.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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