Published Date

December 1, 2003

From The Education of Historians for the Twenty-first Century

We historians are a large and variegated group. This report from the American Historical Association’s Committee on Graduate Education to the profession embraces a large-tent definition of ourselves—one that includes scholars and teachers of history, whether in colleges and universities, museums and historical societies, community colleges, or K-12 educational institutions. Fellow historians with advanced education in the discipline are not only employed as teachers but also work in other settings where they apply their historical knowledge to a variety of pursuits, as journalists, editors, curators, and filmmakers; in research institutes and historical societies, law offices, libraries, and government agencies; and as consultants in the private sector. We value this inclusiveness, not only out of a sense of solidarity with our fellow historians, but because it is necessary to meet the challenge of sustaining and strengthening historical values and knowledge in a present-minded society.

Such inclusiveness supports the profession’s public responsibility to promote historical knowledge in American society, whether in schools, in colleges, in museums, in the media, or in the formation of public policy. A self-consciously broad-based and unified profession might take more responsibility for the place of history in our society. It might, for example, plausibly challenge the current situation in American schools, where only about one-third of high school students are studying history with teachers with a college major in the discipline, and half of the students in grades 7-12 are in classrooms with teachers lacking even a college minor in history.1


Defining Who We Are

Whatever our work settings, we historians share some essential commitments and practices. It is helpful, perhaps, to think about our collective identity as combining three different aspects: history as a discipline, as a profession, and as a career.2 The discipline of history commits us to particular scholarly protocols that establish what qualifies as appropriate evidence and viable arguments from that evidence in original research and synthetic scholarship. These protocols apply regardless of whether we are writing for our peers or for wider audiences; consulting; teaching in a classroom; or using other media, ranging from a public lecture to a museum exhibit, a documentary film, or a radio interview.3

We commonly understand the discipline of history to be empirically grounded, to depend upon the imaginative construction of narratives that are explicitly referential and thus distinguishable from fictional narratives—some recent critics notwithstanding.4 The primary agenda of history as a discipline is to examine the human experience over time, with a commitment to the explanatory relevance of context, both temporal and geographical. Not just recently, but for more than a century, the discipline has been regularly enriched by the incorporation of various theoretical orientations derived from other disciplines. This openness and eclecticism is recognized as one of the discipline’s particular strengths, a point nicely made by Tony Becher in an ethnographic study of historians: “History, though epistemologically soft, seems in an apparently paradoxical way to have achieved [a strong sense of disciplinary cohesion] … by virtue of its very openness, all-embracing catholicity of coverage, and relative absence of theoretical divisions.”5

We share professional commitments to quality and intellectual responsibility. The profession’s mission is to increase and enrich the fund of historical knowledge, to expand and deepen the general understanding of history, and to promote its public usefulness. We act on these common aspirations in a variety of careers and work settings. These careers are quite diverse; slightly fewer than two-thirds of professional historians pursue their work as faculty in institutions of higher education, and the remaining third are distributed among several occupations, including K-12 teaching, U.S. and state governments, and a variety of not-for-profit organizations. (For the distribution of career types, see figure 1.1.) In all these ways of being historians, we share in the long-standing tradition of history partly as a literary art. We value effective communication. Whether through the written word or other media, historians acknowledge and value a larger audience than just our peers. While we grant the usefulness of specialized terminology in its proper place, we also strive to formulate our findings and ideas in a fashion that is clear, interesting, and informative to students and the general public.6

Being a professional implies a certified level of skill and a responsibility to use that skill in the public good. The employer of a professional also has an obligation to provide the working conditions that enable the practice of that skill. It is in the interest of all historians to commit themselves to appropriate and effective professional education. Professionalism also involves taking on the responsibility to advocate working conditions that are worthy of historians in any of their occupational settings.

The Golden Age Legacy

World War II brought in its wake a vast expansion of higher education and, consequently, graduate education. This change not only increased the number of historians, it subtly altered the historian’s identity. The academic historian, particularly the historian as researcher, became the presumed exemplar of the discipline. Nonacademic historians were hardly recognized, and the notion of public history had not yet been articulated. Even those in academic careers found that professional work and responsibilities unrelated to research, including teaching, advising undergraduates, service, and public engagement, brought less professional esteem. In the half-century following 1940, enrollments in higher education increased tenfold, while average teaching loads were reduced by half.7 This transformation in the ethos of the profession was general, not unique to history. It was substantial enough for David Riesman and Christopher Jencks to characterize it in 1968 as an “academic revolution.”8 The conditions enabling that revolution—what Louis Menand recently called the “Golden Age of the University,” spanning roughly the period 1945 to 1975—no longer pertain.9 But memories of that era, real for senior faculty who lived through it, mythic for younger faculty and graduate students, continue to shape and misshape our thinking about what is right and what is wrong with the profession.

The legacy includes an assumption, quite false, that traditionally all Ph.D.’s sought and obtained academic employment. While the largest number of history Ph.D.’s have historically found employment teaching at the college level, academic careers have never been universal, nor has research. There is no long-term data on employment patterns, but spot checks are revealing. For example, as many as 30 percent of the historians receiving Ph.D.’s from Johns Hopkins University between 1880 and 1920 pursued careers outside the academy. We have no data series on employment in the crucial postwar years, but among the cohort receiving their Ph.D.’s in 1959, only 70 percent found employment as college faculty.10 Whatever the precise figures over the course of the century, one can be certain that the 1960s are not at all representative of the employment of historians. We must escape the expectations inherited from that so-called Golden Age.

By taking a longer and broader view, we can better identify values and patterns out of which to fashion sustainable expectations and practices for the twenty-first century. In fact, in a variety of ad hoc ways over the past two decades, historians have been refashioning the profession, seeking to recover a larger and more diverse sense of the community of historians. We need to continue that work, guided by a consistent acknowledgment of the actual diversity of careers and work settings of historians.

Historical Perspective

The past half-century has been the best of times and the worst of times for history as a profession in the United States. It was among the first group of disciplinary professions organized in conjunction with the emergence of the new research universities; today it is one of academe’s largest disciplines. During the past fifty years the number of departments conferring Ph.D.’s in history has doubled (see figure 1.2);11 and doctoral training has become a national endeavor, with significant numbers of historians being trained in every region of the country (see figure 1.3). In 1950, twenty departments produced three-quarters of all history Ph.D.’s; by the 1990s that proportion had dropped to 40 percent.12

Historians are among the most productive researchers in the humanities (see figure 1.4), but publication is not universal among historians—academic or otherwise—a point of relevance to doctoral education.13 Professional historians have a large place in American public culture, though our efforts to engage our fellow citizens and to educate students in classrooms are sometimes overshadowed by the work of popular amateur historians and subverted by commercial productions that blend into entertainment.14 While we cannot—and should not—claim to own history, we should strive as a profession to bring the depth and rigor we value as professionals into the public discussion of historical issues.

Over the past half-century, professional history has been pluralized in more ways than one. Of course, we value intellectual pluralism, but identification with specialized methods or topics as well as the pursuit of different careers within the profession inevitably undercut unity. The community of scholars who feel represented by the AHA has progressively narrowed since World War II—schoolteachers, archivists, state and local historians, and curators feel less a part of the community of historians than we would like. Similarly, many scholars identify more strongly with the more than a hundred specialized historical associations affiliated with the AHA than with the AHA itself. But, as we increasingly understand in our scholarship, pluralism allows, implies, even demands multiple identities, and we need to achieve a balance of those identities within the community of historians. An important step is to seek practical expression of such cosmopolitanism in doctoral programs, where students should be comfortable with the complex identities inherent in the profession. They must be open to and prepared for a variety of scholarly methods, agendas, and careers.

We historians have multiplied and refined our methods, and we have engaged in provocative theoretical discussions, welcoming an increasing number of perspectives on the past. Some of these new perspectives and approaches have been associated with the inclusion of underrepresented groups, including women, African Americans, Latinos/as, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, among others. Contemporary social movements played a role in promoting the changing terrain of historical investigation and in the demographic changes in the profession. The changing intellectual agenda and the social commitment to greater inclusion and diversity within the profession have tended to reinforce each other. The domain of history has become both socially and intellectually more cosmopolitan.

Historians have vastly extended the geography and domain of our collective inquiries. New regions and areas of public and private life previously thought to belong to other disciplines are now fully incorporated into historical study. A century ago, the North Atlantic, Euro-American region constituted almost the whole domain of professional historical inquiry, but in the past half-century the several continents beyond this region have become increasingly lively fields of historical research and teaching.

The generational shift under way among academic historians highlights these changes. One-third of current full-time faculty earned their Ph.D.’s since 1990, and they are more likely to be students of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America than the retiring cohort that earned degrees between 1960 and 1973. While the proportion of Americanists in the professoriate has remained stable in this generational shift (in contrast to the vast increase in the production of Ph.D.’s in American history), the proportion of Europeanists has decreased from 37 percent to 31 percent. Specialists in African history comprised 2 percent of the 1960s faculty cohort but 4 percent of the 1990s group. Similarly, faculty focusing on Asia have increased from 6 percent to 9 percent, and historians of Latin America have risen from 5 percent to 8 percent. Historians of the Middle East also seem to be increasing, but the trend line is uneven.15 To put the point differently, during the period 1980-99, the proportion of faculty employed to teach European history declined by 8.5 percent, American history remained unchanged, and the faculty teaching in all other areas of the world increased their numbers by 10 percent (see figure 1.5).16 There is every reason to expect this pattern of growing worldliness to continue.

While some historians fear that the study of new areas and new topics has intellectually marginalized older areas (such as political and diplomatic history, to name two), there is evidence that the newer histories have not come at the expense of other fields. A recent study of bibliographic citations in The Journal of American History during the 1980s reveals a quite varied pattern of citation, suggesting a lively engagement with a wide range of historical writing. Using thematic categories, the researchers found that the most-cited works were in the fields of intellectual history, religion, women’s history, business and economics, and African American history. These were closely followed by foreign affairs, politics, and social history.17

In a global context, American historians have contributed more than their share to innovative methodologies, novel interpretations, and the pioneering of new domains of study. Partly this has been the result of a cosmopolitan spirit that encouraged borrowing from other national historiographic traditions as American historians fashioned their own national style in historical scholarship. Indeed, one of the distinctive accomplishments of American historical scholarship is its worldliness. While many rightly worry about the limits of American academic internationalism, historians included, the fact is that few national historical professions are so strongly committed to studying other parts of the world. History departments in most other nations focus mainly on their own national history, while in the United States two-thirds of the historians in our colleges and universities study foreign societies.18

We should be pleased with these accomplishments. But the profession’s past half-century also had a less happy side. In 1958, the last time the American Historical Association undertook a thorough study of doctoral education, the main concern was to increase the number of doctorates in history in order to meet a seemingly open-ended demand for college professors in history and other disciplines.19 If the first two decades of the past half-century saw a rising demand for historians in academe, the past quarter-century has presented a different and more complicated situation (see figure 1.6).

Contrary to common opinion, there has been no decline in the number of faculty positions in history. The number of new jobs posted in Perspectives in 2000-2001 (991) marked an all-time high. Given the number of courses taught by adjuncts, one could, of course, argue that the number should have been even higher. But historians have limited control over that number. Faculty historians in graduate programs are, however, responsible for producing far more Ph.D.’s seeking faculty careers than the academic job market can absorb. And graduate faculties must assume a good deal of responsibility for sustaining a narrow conception of appropriate careers for historians, which may discourage students from considering other occupational choices. Of course, graduate faculties may have particular affection for academic careers, and students may as well. But the issue is less about preference than it is about disrespecting some career choices historians might make. The whole range of careers embraced by professional history deserves the respect of those who train professional historians.

There are other persistent problems as well. While steady progress is being made toward a more equal representation of men and women in the academy, the story becomes more complex when we consider rank, salary, and institutional prestige. Among full professors of history, the profession is still overwhelmingly white and male (82 percent male; 91 percent white), and salaries are lower for women than for men.20 The number of African Americans earning Ph.D.’s has leveled off and, as a percentage, even declined. (This contrasts with the number of Latino/a and Asian American students completing Ph.D.’s, which has shown a modest increase, and with Native Americans, where the numbers are very small but increasing slightly.)21 Moreover, there is some evidence suggesting a lessening of the openness of the profession characteristic of the 1960s and 1970s. Anecdotal evidence and some quantitative data indicate that graduate students from families of modest means and students who are the first in their family to attend college or pursue an advanced degree presently make up a smaller proportion of doctoral students than they did two decades ago. Concern about this possibility was repeatedly expressed to the Committee on Graduate Education in the course of its site visits.

While new research agendas, new courses, and a lively discussion about nonacademic employment have sustained an expansive notion of historical knowledge and professional practices, complaints about excessive narrowness and specialization in graduate education have also grown louder. As a department chair at a state university explained to the Committee, “some of the most prestigious universities are turning out Ph.D.’s whose knowledge is a mile deep and an inch wide.”22 Meanwhile, the structure of doctoral programs has changed little since World War I. The organization of historical knowledge in many programs by chronology and geography still adheres to nineteenth-century categories—basically those enshrined in the Library of Congress classification system at the turn of the century.

Professional history in the United States was established within a framework that assumed the nation to be a natural and self-contained unit for historical analysis, and indeed nation-states have been fundamental units of human solidarity and the primary identification of important historical actors. At the same time, contemporary thinking increasingly recognizes forms of solidarity and interaction both smaller and larger than the nation, often outside state frameworks. There can be no doubt that the world is changing (and has changed) enough to rethink the organization of historical knowledge for purposes of research, teaching, and public discussion.23

There has always been a public aspect to professional history, but the “job crisis” of the past three decades has prompted a considerable increase of interest in public history and, more generally, in the different ways of being a professional historian outside the academy. Yet there is less openness to a plurality of occupations for professional historians than meets the eye. Our inquiries have revealed a deeply held and obstructive sense of hierarchy within the profession that unnecessarily exaggerates the worthiness of just one way of being a historian at the expense of others. As one graduate student reported to the Committee, “we need to open up to the reality that the nonacademic world has many options, and train students to become engaged with these options without feeling they are ‘selling out'”; another added that “not enough attention is paid to career possibilities for historians as critical thinkers with a doctorate in the humanities.”

Doctoral programs overwhelmingly promote a faculty position at a research university as the one best career, or at least as the model career.24 Statistically speaking, of course, that is impossible, and it is a formula for promoting disappointment and alienation. Depending upon who is counting, the number of research universities varies, but the 2000 Carnegie classification designates 151 institutions as Doctoral/Research Universities—Extensive. These represent 3.8 percent of the 3,941 highly differentiated institutions of higher education that they classify and in which historians pursuing academic careers will seek employment.25 But these schools generally have much larger history departments, and despite their small proportion of the total number of institutions, 30 percent of college teachers of history are employed at them.26 Nonetheless, the proportion of historians teaching in such institutions is less than half the proportion of students being prepared for employment in them—and, perhaps even more important, being told directly and indirectly to focus their aspirations especially on this one form of employment. Predictably, according to this line of thought, teaching in a community college, where academic employment is growing, is typically given little respect in graduate departments. It is important that the culture of graduate departments be open enough to recognize that there is a considerable diversity of gratifying teaching careers possible within higher education, as well as many satisfying and diverse careers open to historians beyond the academy. The sense of professional worthiness and the patterns of doctoral education promoted in our doctoral departments need to more fully acknowledge and more constructively engage the variety of work settings and careers.

The Future of the Discipline

Shifting our attention from the present to the future, what can we anticipate? What will history as a profession and as a discipline look like later in the twenty-first century? Although historians are properly skeptical of interpreting the historical meaning of the present, we venture here to do just that. We are living through a major transformation in the theory and practice of history. Important and long-standing premises have been questioned. Objectivity, for instance, has been much discussed lately. It has long served as the foundation for the professionalization of history. Though few historians ever believed in the naïve version of objectivity used in current polemics, the ideal of objectivity recently has come under quite intense challenge.27 However, the dissolution of another fundamental, yet often unacknowledged, assumption may be even more consequential. Professional history—indeed, most secular history since the eighteenth century—has depended upon the idea of human progress, of history (especially when carried by the West) as progressive. Often, as William H. McNeill has argued, this has been framed as a history of liberty or, alternatively, as a narrative of social transformation with the West in the vanguard, whether in Marxist, liberal (modernization), or conservative versions.28 Although powerful challenges to this fundamental assumption date back at least to Jacob Burckhardt and Friedrich Nietzsche, or, in a different fashion, to Marc Bloch and Fernand Braudel, American historians did not seriously doubt the progressiveness of history until the second half of the twentieth century. Nazism; Stalinism; the advent of nuclear weapons; the failure of modernization projects for Africa, Asia, and Latin America envisioned in the 1960s; the disaster of Vietnam; and the dismantling of the welfare state—which had seemed to be at the center of the teleology of a progressive history—these all effectively undermined American historians’ belief in a directional history. Such views have not, however, penetrated the broader public’s historical understandings, where teleological, progressive assumptions underpin popular histories and general historical discussion, especially about American history. It is not an easy circumstance, and it greatly complicates the profession’s relation to its most important audience. The matter warrants more concern and thought than it receives.

Be that as it may, professional historians today generally work without the implicit teleological faith of their predecessors. Responses to that loss of faith have taken several forms: writing and teaching histories that are just as often synchronic as diachronic, that explore subjective meaning as often as they examine causation or external transformation, that stress the differentness of the past more than its premonitory connection to the present and future. At the start of the twenty-first century, historians’ accounts are as likely to focus on ruptures as on continuities, with as much attention to contexts as to narrative—indeed, to contexts that are increasingly complex and ever more extensive, reaching to the very ends of the Earth.

The overall shape of history has been transformed. The end of colonial empires, the emergence of new nations in the postwar era, and the belated recognition that the societies of all continents and regions possess a history have all brought about a great extension of the domain of history, which now includes the entirety of past human experience. At the same time, historians increasingly regard the nation, that nineteenth-century unit of analysis, as far less autonomous and far more complicated, marked by internal differentiation and ongoing contestation over national identity. Even universal time, the traditional armature of historical narrative, has come into question. Depending upon the questions being asked, different temporalities are pertinent.29 All of this has weakened the linear narrative of the nation that we historians inherited from the nineteenth century.30 Without progressivist assumptions to guide us, temporal narratives become more challenging, and historians are increasingly complementing the analysis of temporal relations with spatial ones, leading to an increase in comparative, thematic, and/or transnational histories. Others focus increasingly on interaction, exchange, and problems of unity and differentiation within and beyond borders.

The aspiration to incorporate all peoples and societies into historical scholarship, a development of the past half-century, presents a singular challenge to the conventional organization of doctoral study. As Caroline Walker Bynum nicely phrased it during her term as president of the AHA, “it is the task of my generation of historians to find ways of turning, responsibly and wisely, from the Eurocentric history into which we were born to the more global history our children will inherit.”31

Since the 1980s, the discipline of history, which has always straddled the humanities and social sciences, has become more identified with the humanities. This is evident in the styles of research undertaken, salaries (compared with the social sciences), employment patterns, the small proportion of sponsored research conducted by historians, and many other indicators. Indeed, the American Historical Association has recently urged the National Research Council (NRC) to classify history with the humanities in its periodic ranking of departments.32 For the institutional purposes that motivate the NRC rankings (and the methodologies used for them), the formal shift in category makes sense. But this change of institutional location in the national organization of research should not be understood as an intellectual abandonment of the discipline’s historical association with the social sciences. History should value and maintain its Janus-faced position in the world of scholarship—looking to both the humanities and the social sciences.

While humanistic styles of research are currently stimulating important scholarship in the discipline of history, it would be unfortunate if too tight an embrace of the humanities diverted the attention of historians from certain traditional concerns shared by history and the social sciences—institutional forms of power in the realms of politics, the economy, foreign relations, and war. Without sacrificing the analytical richness and the interpretive achievements gained by the turn toward the reading of texts for their internal meaning and the examination of language as discourse and as a form of power, there is much to be gained by reconnecting with the social sciences and maintaining the historical mix that fruitfully balanced the humanities and social sciences in the repertoire of historians. In that way we can bring before our graduate students important theories and methods that address institutions, social structure, and social transformation.

Education for the Future

The challenge of doctoral education in the twenty-first century is embedded in these contexts. How we think about doctoral education today will powerfully affect the discipline and profession in the future. We must begin by asking whether the Ph.D. is best understood as a professional degree linked to a specific occupation or set of occupations. Or is it better understood as the apex of the system of formal learning, with an intrinsic justification as well as a professional one? Although the overwhelming proportion of students who pursue doctoral study do so with professional goals in mind, the Committee on Graduate Education considers it important to maintain the broader, intrinsic value of advanced learning.

We do so for two related reasons. First, to recognize those individuals who want to undertake the challenges of the most rigorous formal education our society offers, with or without a direct relation to career choices. Such students not only acquire an enhanced capacity for independent and creative thinking but also a sense of significant accomplishment that directly benefits both the individual and society. Second, the Committee wants to be sure that the rise and fall of the job market, which must be seriously considered at all times, does not become the sole determinant of educational policy at the graduate level.33 Indeed, when the first graduate schools were established, it was not assumed that every recipient of the doctoral degree would enter upon a teaching career. The aim was to educate leaders who, in the pursuit of a variety of careers, would influence public life. The doctorate, according to Columbia historian Carleton J. H. Hayes, was an “award to which any person in any profession who has great intellectual curiosity may aspire.”34

What are the qualities of the “Compleat Historian”? Do they vary depending upon the career pursued by the historian? We think not. Training in the conduct of original research forms the core of advanced education in history. But—and we emphasize this point—developing a capacity for research is not the whole of professional formation or even of scholarship. Is doctoral training today too exclusively focused on research? Our survey of doctoral programs reveals that nearly every recent change in program requirements has been designed at least in part to enable an earlier and greater focus on research.35 While these changes have no doubt been intended to better prepare students for their professional lives in the academy, this growing emphasis on research may obscure other essential aspects of the education of historians for the careers they will seek and pursue.

A recent survey of more than four thousand doctoral students in their third year or beyond in eleven disciplines at twenty-seven universities provides important data on this point. The sample included 594 history doctoral students, more than any other discipline. The findings of the survey, sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts and carried out under the auspices of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, are striking.36 The researchers found that while most students enter graduate school intent on becoming teachers (historians were second only to philosophers in this strong preference), by the third year they felt prepared only for research, not for teaching; advising students; or collaborating with other scholars, librarians, student affairs offices, colleagues in other disciplines, or administrators.37 The Committee on Graduate Education’s own conversations with graduate students strongly supported these findings. Research need not displace teaching, but valuing research excessively can devalue teaching and other aspects of faculty responsibilities.

The issue is not new. Today’s complaints about overemphasizing research in the education of historians at the expense of teaching echo those voiced in the 1958 survey of history departments.38 That earlier concern was pushed aside by the massive expansion of teaching positions that coincided with the publication of The Education of Historians in the United States (1962). By contrast, the current tightness of the academic employment market—and pressure from administrators—has moved teaching and, especially, the preparation of teachers closer to the center of faculty and graduate student concern. Commendable efforts are being made to better prepare doctoral students for teaching careers, but much more remains to be done.

The Committee’s survey of doctoral programs found that graduate departments rank preparing students for research as their most important educational task, though the history students in the Pew study who intend to pursue an academic career indicate that what most attracts them to an academic position is the opportunity to teach (84 percent). Research comes in third among their ranked preferences, after the general appeal of working in a college environment. Consistent with those preferences, these students were most eager to obtain faculty positions in liberal arts colleges and comprehensive universities, not research universities. In this regard, students seem to have a more accurate map of higher education’s opportunities and satisfactions than their graduate teachers.

Even granting the goal of educating doctoral students as researchers, the preparation they receive is striking for its narrowness. While 69 percent of history graduate students surveyed (all in their third year and beyond) felt prepared to “conduct research,” no more than a third of them felt they knew how to go about getting their research published. More generally and more immediately important, massive anecdotal evidence indicates that far too many doctoral students cannot explain the context and significance of their dissertation research. Such a problem is one of inadequate preparation as job candidates, but it is also a serious weakness in their education as researchers.39

Graduate students want a more complex education than most Ph.D. programs are offering. They seek training as researchers, to be sure, but not that alone. We believe, in fact, that they are looking for a “research-based teaching degree.” Interestingly, that is how the doctorate was commonly conceived before the postwar academic revolution.40 Yet they also want and need a fuller orientation to the various activities common to professional life as historians. Chris M. Golde and Timothy M. Dore, principal researchers for the Pew survey, conclude that “the training doctoral students receive is not what they want, nor does it prepare them for the jobs they take.”41

Without change, this mismatch may become worse in time. In its various meetings with historians, the Committee on Graduate Education repeatedly invited our colleagues to speculate on the intellectual and institutional shape of history a decade or more into the future. Not surprisingly, few offered much that was concrete, but those who ventured to look ahead tended to agree with the recent observations of Debra Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools. In her view, there will be more concern in the new century with the ethical implications of one’s own scholarship, and there will be greater sensitivity to ethical issues encountered in the ordinary course of professional practice both within the academy and in other work settings. More intellectual work will be conducted at the interface of disciplines, often along thematic lines or focused on specific problems; breadth will be valued as much as depth, both within and across disciplines; and more work will be collaborative, sometimes with collaborators from outside the academy.42

If graduate education in history holds tight to narrowness and specialization in training professional historians, the discipline might well discourage precisely the students we should value most highly—the imaginative and intellectually venturesome.43 Moreover, many scholars of higher education predict that tenure may either disappear or be radically changed in the next decade or two. We may already have a glimmer of that future. Between 1979 and 2000, the percentage of tenured historians in higher education decreased from 75 percent to 50 percent, while the percentage of part-time faculty increased from about 7 percent to 25 percent (see figure 1.7). If this trend continues, flexibility and intellectual agility will become particularly important for academics.

But the burden of these profound changes cannot be placed entirely on today’s students, among whom there may be future faculty members working in circumstances that do not meet a professional standard. Do graduate faculties have responsibilities in relation to this prospect? Are historians unintentionally advancing these trends by not advocating and practicing a commitment to teaching and institutional development that distinguishes the value of full-time (and tenured) faculty from part-time? Is the overproduction of Ph.D.’s seeking academic employment contributing to these trends? Or, if the trend is wholly externally driven and seemingly irresistible, what is the responsibility of the profession to students seeking such careers in history? The Committee’s surveys and other inquiries into the current state of doctoral education find little consideration of these projected circumstances and attendant issues.

Doctoral education focuses almost exclusively on primary research and specialization. The results are extremely rigorous and often impressive. We respect this approach to monographic research; given the level of sophistication achieved by the discipline, no other research strategy seems possible. The error we see, however, is in identifying this particular aspect of scholarship with the whole of scholarship. Such specialized research is one dimension of modern scholarship, and in its place it is beyond reproach. But if the education of future historians needs to be more diverse and adaptable to a variety of intellectual challenges and employment opportunities, there are implications for the dissertation itself. The profession must consider more flexibility in the dissertation, making room for a variety of forms and purposes, differences in scope, and more variance in length measured in pages and in time to completion. Opening this door invites worry about standards, but with a clear articulation of purpose standards need not be weakened. A more diverse pattern of doctoral education and historical careers demands a greater capacity to identify a variety of excellences.

The Committee on Graduate Education strongly commends the general thrust, if not all the particulars, of a report by an earlier AHA committee, the Ad Hoc Committee on Redefining Scholarly Work. Their report, issued in December 1993,44 built upon the important book by Ernest L. Boyer, Scholarship Reconsidered.45 That committee followed Boyer in challenging the “equation of scholarship with research and publication.” Like Boyer’s book, the report offered a number of rubrics that specify additional aspects of scholarship: the advancement of knowledge (or research pure and simple), the integration of knowledge, the application of knowledge, and the transformation of knowledge through teaching. Without endorsing this specific set of categories, we urge thoughtful consideration of the main point: That professional historical scholarship might be realized and exemplified in a variety of ways.

Historical scholarship at its best reveals a substantial fund of historical knowledge enriched by independent, critical, and original thought. Beyond research grounded in original sources, historical scholarship includes works notable for synthesis and reflection (for example, the distinguished scholarship of Richard Hofstadter). A fuller conception of scholarship might properly include bringing together old and new knowledge in a fresh narrative or perhaps in another form of presentation designed to reach a public audience. Does the creation of effective educational materials, whether for the college level or for K-12, constitute a form of scholarship? Does not strong teaching at the undergraduate and secondary level involve an important scholarly aspect? Occasionally, professional historians have the opportunity (and perhaps the obligation) to bring historical scholarship to bear directly on policy issues, sometimes directly collaborating in the drafting of legal briefs or legislation. Should such practical application of historical knowledge, whether grounded in primary sources or secondary ones, be considered scholarship as well?

We think that significant scholarly work is accomplished in all these activities. It is important to recognize that all these forms of scholarship involve more than mere formatting or repackaging of knowledge. Scholars will often gain fresh insights and uncover new themes that find their way into primary research, either their own or that of fellow historians.

We are not asking universal assent to these propositions. But we are asking all historians and all history departments to give very serious thought to a broad meaning of scholarship and its relation to monographic research. In the end, of course, what counts as scholarship—including the weight to be given different forms of it—ought to be and will be decided by individual departments in our highly differentiated system of higher education and in other educational institutions and historical agencies that employ professional historians. In making these judgments, it is essential for the criteria of judgment to be clearly formulated and based upon the distinctive and critically examined mission of the particular institution.

The singular focus on research and the research ideal within the profession—and on increasing numbers of campuses—is the partial result of a failure to establish distinctive local institutional missions at American colleges and universities. Without local clarity of goals, historians become vulnerable to standards that can be organized and evaluated nationally, often on market principles. But they may not be appropriate locally. Particular institutions and history departments must develop a clear understanding of discipline-wide and profession-wide standards and agendas, but at the same time they need the courage to develop local, distinctive elaborations of national markers of quality that relate to their institutional mission.

Some will claim that this line of argument represents a lowering of standards, but that is not our intention at all. Instead, we seek to expand the concepts of excellence in scholarship while retaining the best of current practices, especially outstanding current scholarly practices. At the same time, we mean to comment on monographic research that is little more than a mechanical exercise, done for no larger reason than that it has not been done already. When such work is presented as serious work, there is a cost. Such misrepresentation of research and the research ideal devalues the real thing and weakens the scholarly claims of the profession. It also discourages students from thinking more seriously and creatively about the possible interest and importance of the topics they select.

Generational Succession in the Academy

Doctoral education is about generational succession: the transfer of knowledge, authority, and jobs across generations and the modification and extension of that knowledge. The average age of historians in the academy is nearly fifty-five, making us slightly older than our colleagues in other disciplines. The large cohort of historians that entered the professoriate in the 1960s is beginning to retire; more than a third of academic historians have indicated that they expect to retire in the next decade.46 It would be foolish to predict the number of academic positions that will become available. And the issue has never been the absolute number of jobs but rather the relation of job seekers to jobs. Still, it is clear that a very large cohort soon will be retiring. The women and men who have recently completed doctoral programs or will complete them in the next decade will have an unusual opportunity to shape the profession. The size of this cohort, its demographic characteristics, and the preparation of its members—as teachers, researchers, colleagues, and academic citizens—will have significance not just for their individual careers but also for the profession as a whole.

It is impossible to project either the need for teachers of history or the production of Ph.D.’s in the discipline. But tracking enrollments, demographic changes, and the production of Ph.D.’s is helpful for thinking about the opportunities before the profession.

The number of undergraduate history majors (and enrollments, to the extent they can be tracked47 ) peaked in 1970-71, declining to a low in 1984-85 (see table 1.1). The number began rising in the late 1980s, stabilizing in the 1990s at about 60 percent of the level that obtained in the early 1970s (and roughly equal to the number of undergraduate majors in the mid-1960s). Ph.D. production in history generally followed the same curve, peaking in 1972-73, then declining by more than 50 percent to a low of 497 in the mid-1980s. That number increased to 984 by 1999 and to 1,060 in 2000. The number of Ph.D.’s produced in 2000 roughly matches the annual number in the early 1970s. The great gap between the number of new Ph.D. recipients and job openings that suddenly emerged about 1971 narrowed considerably by 1980, and in the decade of the eighties the trend lines for new Ph.D.’s and jobs even converged a couple of times.48 But the 1990s brought a large upswing in the production of Ph.D.’s without a commensurate increase in job openings (with adjunct positions filling the gap; see figure 1.8). Although “what-might-have-beens” cannot have been, it is worth noting that had the production of Ph.D.’s remained steady from the 1980s onward, the ratio of positions to applicants would be reasonably balanced today—though, of course, this might have drawn more students into the field, again producing a mismatch.

The upward swing in Ph.D.’s that began in 1992 invites further inquiry. The resulting academic unemployment and underemployment, exacerbated by budget cuts, especially at public universities, explains the special intensity of the “job crisis” in the 1990s. The budget cuts, which brought widespread exploitation of adjunct teachers, were in fact partially enabled by the oversupply of Ph.D.’s in history seeking academic employment. The result was a vicious cycle that continues.

This sharp rise in Ph.D. production in the early 1990s affected the humanities generally, and it seems to have an explanation.49 It coincided precisely with a wide discussion in the late 1980s that envisioned a looming shortage of Ph.D.’s in the humanities in the near future. This concern (and presumed opportunity) was prompted by an analysis of the likely demand for faculty in the 1990s and beyond. For the humanities, the predicted shortage was expected to produce only seven applicants for every ten job openings by 1997.50 It was music to the ears of outstanding students, not to mention those teachers of undergraduates hoping to send their best students to graduate school. And graduate faculties were eager to receive them. Regrettably, in an unfortunate example of the perils of prediction, the positions did not materialize. But the new Ph.D.’s arrived in abundance in the 1990s. This unhappy increase in the production of Ph.D.’s marks one of two instances in the past half-century when history deviated significantly (and upward) from other social sciences, economics excepted. The other period was between 1967 and 1977 (see figure 1.9).51

There are at present signs that painful market-driven adjustments are taking place. Entering classes of doctoral students have decreased in size, and this decline will soon be reflected in a reduced number of Ph.D.’s in history. While it is likely that the expanding economy of the 1990s partly explains the decline in new doctoral students, our recent survey of doctoral programs indicates that reduced enrollments were also the result of responsible policy decisions by departments, for which we heartily commend them.52 This has been most clearly the case in the larger departments ranked highly by the NRC, though the survey indicates that many smaller departments also reduced their admissions (see figure 1.10). Based on other surveys conducted by the AHA, the exceptions to this trend tend to be a number of programs (25 percent of the programs for which we have data) not ranked by the NRC in 1993 because they were either too small, too new, or too specialized. These continue to increase their doctoral enrollments (see figure 1.11).53 Without detailed information in each instance concerning local circumstances, one must not rush to judgment. But given the national situation, we insist that any local decision to increase the number of doctoral students surely must have a clear and compelling justification, one able to meet a very high standard of responsibility. A quest for institutional prestige, higher state funding formulas, lower teaching loads, or a need for graduate student instructors does not meet that standard.

The directors of graduate studies who responded to the Committee’s survey of doctoral programs indicate that the quality of applicants is as high as ever.54 But a majority also reported that competition for outstanding graduate students had become increasingly intense. Such reports suggest an excess of slots to be filled. If true, only unhappy consequences can follow—two of which are especially troubling. There will be incentives to admit less-qualified students to maintain a doctoral program and, perhaps, to ensure a supply of graduate student teachers. Here there is a conflict of interest separating faculty members and prospective students; departments and university administrators are obliged to confront this ethical issue with all seriousness. Alternatively, the department may maintain high admission standards, with the result that too few students will be admitted to create a cohort of sufficient size to sustain necessary courses or to ensure a lively and diverse exchange of ideas in courses and within the community of graduate students. Here there is surely a pedagogical issue of significance, but it is as well an ethical one. Painful as it might be, upon exploration of these issues some departments and deans will have to consider whether a given program should continue.

Between 1995 and 2000, the number of enrolled graduate students at Ph.D.-granting history programs declined by 17 percent, from 14,158 to 11,790. Although it is too early to identify any firm trend lines, it is notable that the proportion of women enrolled increased, while the proportion of white males declined. There was a small decline in Asian American and African American students, and a significant increase (40 percent) in Latino/a students (see figure 1.12).55 The improvement in the male-to-female ratio to 55:45 is notable (in 1970, the ratio was 85:15). These gains made by women in history fall short of those made in other humanities disciplines, where new Ph.D.’s earned by women have gone beyond the 50 percent mark to create substantial female majorities. In fact, new Ph.D.’s in English have been predominantly female for two decades, and in 2000 the male-to-female ratio was almost the reverse of history at 42:58. In foreign languages and literatures, 61.5 percent of new Ph.D.’s in 2000 were women. Women have taken the majority of doctoral degrees in American studies for more than fifteen years, accounting for 56 percent in 2000 (see figure 1.13).56

Whether history is moving in the same direction toward a female majority is not clear, but it is a possibility. While sexual equality is a firm goal of the profession, its achievement often has unanticipated and unwanted implications. Historical and sociological studies of professions typically point out that a female majority has often connoted the “feminization” of a profession, which is frequently, if erroneously, assumed to signify “a decline in status” of a given profession.57 Such perceptions typically translate into lower salaries and prestige. The historical profession must challenge such false associations and, more positively, emphasize the importance of the increased representation of previously (and still) underrepresented groups and their invigorating impact on the discipline, something evident in the topics studied, the questions asked, and the answers given. That history is no longer researched and taught by a homogeneous faculty has brought new energy, rigor, and intellectual richness to the discipline.

For African Americans, Latinos/as, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, the changing demographics are more complex. Taken collectively, the percentage of members of these groups receiving Ph.D.’s in history has edged upward to 15 percent of all new Ph.D.’s in 2000. Yet their representation in history lags behind American studies, sociology, and political science, though history’s figures are slightly higher than those for English (see figure 1.14). Within history, different groups have different patterns. The recent increase in underrepresented groups is largely traceable to the entry of more Asian American and Latino/a historians, though their numbers remain small. There has been a slight decline in the percentage of African Americans earning Ph.D.’s in history, from 4.2 percent from 1979 to 1984 to 3.6 percent from 1995 to 2000.58

The NRC in the past collected limited data on family background (the information is now collected by the National Opinion Research Center). The data are not as rich or as precise as one would like, but they seem to point toward a change in the class background of Ph.D.’s in history, with less openness to students from families without previous experience with higher education and, especially, without graduate and professional education. The data we have track the education level of the fathers of Ph.D.’s as a marker of socioeconomic standing. Though an imperfect marker, this does indicate a shift toward greater class advantage for those receiving Ph.D.’s in history.

In 1972, 39 percent of the fathers of students who obtained a Ph.D. had a bachelor’s degree, compared to 18 percent of the adult male population. In 2000, 64 percent of the fathers of history Ph.D.’s held a college degree, while 28 percent of all adult males had achieved that level of education. Perhaps more striking is the increase in the proportion of students from highly educated families, families in which the father has a master’s degree or more. From 1974 to 1979, 16 percent of the doctoral recipients had such fathers; in 2000 the figure was 39 percent (see table 1.2).59 Two conclusions follow. First, doctoral students in history have come and continue to come disproportionately from relatively privileged family backgrounds. Second, the proportion and number of students in doctoral programs from first-generation college families is declining. This trend—if the weak data are sufficient to speak of a real trend—is relevant to both diversity and opportunity questions. And the data point to a third, more speculative point. The uncertainty of employment in history may be discouraging students from first-generation college families from pursuing history careers. One can understand their preference for more secure career paths, but the profession loses vitality and students of potential lose an opportunity to pursue what may be to them a substantively if not practically appealing life work. Achieving a better match between employment and Ph.D. production may, therefore, be essential in order to encourage such talented students to pursue careers in history. Paradoxically, a case might be made that a significant reduction in the production of Ph.D.’s could increase diversity.

Public and Private Universities

Differences between public and private universities warrant attention. Until 1960, private institutions provided doctoral education for most historians. But since then, public institutions have educated a substantial majority, 71 percent in 1995 and 68 percent in 2000 (see figures 1.15 and 1.16). Given the cutbacks in funding for public higher education since the 1980s, the large proportion of doctoral education in public institutions is surprising. We hope that enrollments have not remained high because of cutbacks—to ensure a pool of graduate student teachers at a time of budget cutting. African Americans, Latinos/as, Asian Americans, and Native Americans are equally underrepresented in public and private institutions, though the percentage of women matriculating in doctoral programs at private institutions is somewhat higher. It is encouraging that the list of schools recently sending students to doctoral programs in history (1998-2001; see table 1.3) has become much more diverse than it was in the period 1936-56, with public institutions well represented.60

In the mid-1990s, there was not a significant difference in the proportion of funded first-year students in history at public (61 percent) and private (63 percent) institutions. But our survey of doctoral programs revealed a substantial change by 2001. First-year students at both public and private universities were more likely to be funded than in previous years, but the gap between the two has widened significantly, at 75 percent for public universities versus 91 percent for private ones. It should also be noted that funding at public institutions usually requires more teaching, and this results in even greater inequality.

Recent improvements notwithstanding, the average level of funding at both private and public institutions remains inadequate.61 This underfunding, as students are quick to point out, is often matched by an unrealistic graduate school regulation limiting or forbidding “outside” employment. Until stipends provide adequate support for graduate students, such regulations prompt both widespread rule-breaking and cynicism. Faculty and deans must recognize that even the largest stipends currently being offered to doctoral students require supplements from families, work, loans, or a combination. When programs describe these students as being “fully funded,” they are describing an illusion. Students are better funded than they were a few years ago, and that should give some comfort to both students and faculty. But until funding is substantially increased, the corps of graduate students able to fully concentrate on studies will be more of an aspiration than a reality. Departments generally do not have authority over funding levels; they can do no more and no less than press for adequate funding. In the meantime, both faculty and prospective students need to be aware of the present reality.

Data collected by the Department of Education on the funding of first-year doctoral students in all fields indicate that between one-fourth (at public institutions) and one-third (at private institutions) carry a debt load in excess of ten thousand dollars, obviously a significant burden.62 The Committee’s survey and site visits reveal that, subsequent to the collection and publication of the government’s data, several institutions—mostly but not exclusively private—have established multiyear awards combining fellowships and teaching assistantships for all students. This is a positive development, though it too may contribute to the widening gap between public and private institutions and may, as we shall discuss in the next chapter, have a negative impact on diversity.

Similarly, a growing disparity in faculty salaries at public and private institutions could—over time—result in a relative weakening of the history departments at public institutions.63 There is another, more general piece of evidence of a growing private/public distinction as well. Among the leading graduate institutions, as ranked by the National Research Council, eight of the nine ranked at the top are private. The extended period of infatuation with privatization and consequent disinvestment in the public sector has begun to reshape higher education and educational opportunity.64 These indications of the weakening of public higher education point to potential problems of considerable import. They bring to the fore questions of access and quality. But they also raise regional issues. Private research institutions are disproportionately located in the Northeast, thus pointing toward a possible pattern of regional advantage or disadvantage.

The Challenge

Aggregate data are useful for obtaining a large view, but they inevitably obscure important local cases. Indeed, the point of this report is not to create a national model but to encourage a very close analysis of local situations informed by a clearer awareness of national patterns and the Committee’s suggestions for improvement. These suggestions cover a range of issues—recruitment, curriculum, academic standards, financial aid, professional development, preparation for a variety of professional careers, and placement, among others.

The urgency of bringing production and training of Ph.D.’s more nearly into line with desired and likely career opportunities for professional historians in the foreseeable future is a strong message we bring. Doctoral programs that exist (or exist at their present scale) mainly to provide teaching assistants for the institution without consideration of the students’ bleak employment prospects cannot be justified. In reducing the size of Ph.D. programs, care must be taken to achieve this without unduly restricting access to advanced education and careers in history for groups underrepresented in the profession, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, or graduates from less-selective undergraduate institutions. We are equally concerned that the profession better adapt its graduate curriculum to the intellectual directions of the discipline and the multiple career settings of historians, preparing them better for the everyday work that will be demanded of them in those careers.

Next section: Chapter 2


  1. Marilyn McMillen et al., Qualification for the Public School Work Force: Prevalence of Out-of-Field Teachers, 1987-88 to 1999-2000 (Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, (2002), 57-58; Diane Ravitch, “The Educational Backgrounds of History Teachers,” in Knowing, Teaching, and Learning History, ed. Peter Stearns, Peter Seixas, and Sam Wineburg (New York: New York University Press, 2000), 143-55. []
  2. This formulation owes its inspiration—though not its precise conceptualization—to the distinction between discipline and profession offered to the Committee by James Banner. []
  3. Too often, the discipline is assimilated to the department and vice versa; they should be distinguished. The discipline is a set of scholarly protocols, while a department is an administrative arrangement for the management of higher education, often—but not always—organized by discipline. The department’s importance will be discussed in chapters 2 and 3. []
  4. See the clarifying comment by Roger Chartier in Actes/Proceedings, 18th International Congress of Historical Sciences (Montreal: CISH, 1995), 154. []
  5. Tony Becher, Academic Tribes and Territories (Milton Keynes, Eng.: Open University Press, 1989), 159. []
  6. The Committee’s survey of employers in public history revealed a widespread belief on their part that academic historians either cannot or will not adapt their presentations to general audiences. []
  7. Clark Kerr, The Uses of the University, 4th ed. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995), 142. []
  8. Christopher Jencks and Davis Riesman, The Academic Revolution (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1968). []
  9. Louis Menand, The Marketplace of Ideas, ACLS Occasional Paper No. 49 (New York: ACLS, 2001). See also Thomas Bender, “Politics, Intellect, and the University, 1945-1995,” in American Academic Culture in Transformation, ed. Thomas Bender and Carl E. Schorske (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), 1-38. []
  10. See Dexter Perkins and John Snell, The Education of Historians in the United States (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962), 21; Thomas Bender, Intellect and Public Life (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 159n. []
  11. the number of Ph.D.’s has more than doubled, From 3,025 in the 1950s to 8,134 in the 1990s. []
  12. Frank Scott and Jeff Anstine, “Critical Mass in the Production of Ph.D.’s: A Multidisciplinary Study,” Economics of Education Review 21 (2002): 29-42, sec. 4.2. []
  13. The National Survey of Post Secondary Faculty (Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, 1999) reveals that slightly fewer than two-thirds of historians published at least one refereed article and fewer than one-half published a book, including edited volumes and textbooks. []
  14. Some of these issues are illuminated in Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen, The Presence of the Past (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998). []
  15. The post-September 11, 2001, job listings suggest that the trend will become clear and upward for the Middle East. []
  16. Robert B. Townsend, “Job Market Report, 2000: History Job Openings Continue to Surge,” Perspectives (December 2000), esp. table 5. []
  17. Edward A. Goedeken and Jean-Pierre V. M. Herubel, “Periodical Dispersion in American History: Observations on Article Bibliographies from the Journal of American History,” The Serials Librarian 27 (1995): 64. []
  18. Gordon S. Wood and Anthony Molho, “Introduction,” in Imagined Histories: American Historians Interpret the Past, ed. Gordon S. Wood and Anthony Molho (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), 3. It should be noted that in many foreign universities area studies are conducted in special institutes outside of disciplinary structures. []
  19. Perkins and Snell, Education of Historians in the United States. []
  20. Robert B. Townsend, “Status of Women and Minorities in the History Profession,” Perspectives (April 2000). A recent general study that covers all disciplines at research universities considers salary as well as rank. It argues that considering rank, salary, and institutional type (research), very little progress has been made. See Cathy A. Trower and Richard P. Chait, “Faculty Diversity: Too Little for Too Long,” Harvard Magazine 104:4 (March-April 2002). The data on retirement plans indicated later in this report suggest a significant alteration of these figures within a decade. []
  21. Thomas B. Hoffer et al., Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities: Summary Report 2000 (Chicago: National Opinion Research Center, 2001). []
  22. Quoted in Philip M. Katz, “CGE’s E-mail Survey Focuses on Challenges in Graduate Training,” Perspectives 39 (April 2001): 11-15. []
  23. These discussions are well under way, and new programs and courses are being developed. One thinks quickly of the Atlantic world, the African Diaspora, world history, and transnational approaches to national histories. []
  24. Eighty-five percent of respondents to the CGE Survey of Doctoral Programs reported that training graduate students for jobs at research universities was a high or moderate priority of their departments. Ninety-three percent said that training students for careers at comprehensive four-year institutions was also a high or moderate priority, but only 66 percent said that training for community college careers was a high or moderate priority. Fifty-one percent said that training historians for museums and historic sites was a low priority or no priority at all, and 79 percent said that training historians for careers in government service was a low priority or no priority at all. []
  25. On differentiation, see Burton R. Clark, Academic Life: Small Worlds, Different Worlds (Princeton, N.J.: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1987). []
  26. Doctoral institutions employ 7,476 historians; M.A.-level institutions, 5,713; B.A. institutions 3,330; community colleges, 8,043. Based on data from The National Study of Postsecondary Faculty. []
  27. See Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The “Objectivity Question” and the American Historical Profession (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), for a recent discussion of this issue. See also Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacob, Telling the Truth about History (New York: Norton, 1994). For an important theoretical discussion of the issues raised by Novick, see Thomas L. Haskell, Objectivity Is Not Neutrality: Explanatory Themes in History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), chap. 6; James T. Kloppenberg, “Objectivity and Historians: A Century of American Historical Writing,” American Historical Review 94 (1989): 1011-30. []
  28. William H. McNeill, The Shape of European History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974). []
  29. See the early statement by Fernand Braudel, “History and the Social Sciences: The Long Term,” in The Varieties of History, ed. Fritz Stern (New York: Vintage, 1972), 403-29. François Furet even more radically suggested that historians could dispense with temporality. See Furet, In the Workshop of History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), chap. 3. []
  30. For an excellent brief summary of major changes in historiography, see George G. Iggers, Historiography in the Twentieth Century: From Scientific Objectivity to the Postmodern Challenge (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1997). []
  31. Caroline Walker Bynum, “The Last Eurocentric Generation,” Perspectives 34 (February 1996): 3-4. See also Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000). []
  32. One should note a reciprocal development, the “historical turn” in the human sciences, which include the humanities and parts of the social sciences. See Terrence McDonald, ed., The Historical Turn in the Human Sciences (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996); Catherine Gallagher and Stephen Greenblatt, Practicing the New Historicism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000). []
  33. This concern was articulated early in the current job crisis by John Hope Franklin, “On the ‘Oversupply’ of Graduate Students,” Daedalus 103 (Fall 1974): 265-68. []
  34. Quoted in William B. Hesseltine and Louis Kaplan, “Doctors of Philosophy of History: A Statistical Study,” American Historical Review 47 (1942): 775. For the initial vision of the doctoral program at Columbia, see Thomas Bender, Intellect and Public Life (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), chap. 4. []
  35. The increased ambitiousness of recent dissertations is striking, especially when compared with the description of dissertations in the 1950s offered by Perkins and Snell, Education of Historians, 150-52. []
  36. Chris M. Golde and Timothy Dore, At Cross Purposes: What the Experiences of Today’s Doctoral Students Reveal about Doctoral Education (Philadelphia: Pew Charitable Trusts, 2001). Golde provides a more detailed look at the data pertaining to history graduate students in “The Career Goals of History Doctoral Students: Data from the Survey of Doctoral Education and Career Preparation,” Perspectives 39 (October 2001): 21-26. The statistics in the next few paragraphs are drawn from these two studies. []
  37. Among historians, 70 percent responded as being “definitely” interested in faculty careers at the time of the survey; 81 percent indicated that at one time they had been definitely interested in a faculty career. []
  38. Perkins and Snell, Education of Historians, 162. []
  39. Search committees commonly voice this complaint, and the Committee members who participated in the Professional Division’s Job Interview Workshop at the AHA Annual Meeting in January 2003 found this problem to be pervasive. []
  40. Our survey asked directors of graduate study to characterize the degree offered in their department. The “research-based teaching degree” option was selected by 42 percent of the respondents, while 47 percent selected “research degree.” Thirteen percent characterized the degree as a “general purpose degree,” and none considered it a “teaching degree.” In 1958, the aim of most programs was described as the education of a “scholar-teacher.” Perkins and Snell, Education of Historians, 141. For a well-documented study of the transition from the “teacher-scholar” to the “scholar-teacher” in one department (Stanford University) from 1890 to 1990, see Larry Cuban, How Scholars Trumped Teachers: Change without Reform in University Curriculum, Teaching, and Research, 1890-1990 (New York: Teachers College Press, 1999), chap. 3. []
  41. Golde and Dore, At Cross Purposes, 5. For similar findings, see Kathryn A. Adams, “What Colleges and Universities Want in New Faculty,” Preparing Future Faculty Occasional Paper (Washington, D.C., 2002), []
  42. Debra Stewart, “The State of Graduate Education,” presentation to the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools (February 20, 2000), 3. See also the statement by David Ward, President of the American Council of Education, at More generally, see Michael Gibbons et al., The New Production of Knowledge: The Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary Societies (London: Sage, 1994). []
  43. We wish to acknowledge the observations about possible futures offered by Professor John Higham during a Committee meeting in Washington, D.C., April 2002, particularly his warning about the risk of driving away the students we most treasure. Possible evidence of such a future is the proliferation and appeal of such transdisciplinary journals as Critical Inquiry, Representations, and Public Culture. []
  44. The report is available at []
  45. Ernest L. Boyer, Scholarship Reconsidered: The Priorities of the Professoriate (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990). []
  46. In 1999, 15.4 percent of academic historians indicated that they expected to retire in one to five years; another 22.8 percent estimate six to ten years. See National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, NSOPF:99 (Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, 2001). []
  47. Enrollment data in history courses are difficult to find over time, but data collected in the 1970s suggest that enrollments in a broad way track B.A.’s, with B.A.’s fairly steady between 1.8 percent and 2 percent of total enrollment. See “AHA Survey,” AHA Newsletter 12 (September 1974): 1. []
  48. Of course, there was a backlog of job seekers from previous years, many of whom continued to seek positions. []
  49. There was an upswing in the sciences and engineering at roughly the same time, but that was largely driven by the influx of foreign students, many of whom returned to professional positions in their countries of origin. Humanities students, by contrast, tend to be American citizens or permanent residents and seek employment in U.S. academic institutions. On general trends, see Roger Geiger, “Doctoral Education: The Short-Term Crisis vs. the Long-Term Challenge,” The Review of Higher Education 20 (1997): 239-51. []
  50. William G. Bowen and Julie Ann Sosa, Prospects for Faculty in the Arts and Sciences: A Study of Factors Affecting Demand and Supply, 1987-2012 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989). The study was news. See Debra E. Blum, “Big Faculty Shortage Seen in Humanities and Social Sciences,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 20, 1989. []
  51. Economics has a distinctive path; here, the reference is to political science and sociology. []
  52. This shift was partly prompted by the emphasis of the Mellon Foundation on “time to degree.” Many of these departments reduced the number of students and improved funding in order to shorten that time. []
  53. For a similar study that uses U.S. News and World Report rankings, see Roark Atkinson, “Measuring Performance in Graduate History Programs,” OAH Newsletter 29:2 (May 2001): 1. He finds a cutback in admissions among the top ten departments but some increase in departments ranked eleven to forty, with declines in departments ranked lower than forty. []
  54. Thirty-seven percent noted improvement, and the same percentage saw no change. Only 21 percent felt applicant quality had declined in the past five years. See Philip M. Katz, “CGE Update: How Good Are Today’s Graduate Students?” Perspectives 40:2 (February 2002): 13-14. []
  55. For the general trend from 1979 to 2000, which also compares history with other disciplines, see figure 1.13. []
  56. Hoffer et al., Doctorate Recipients, 2000, table 13. []
  57. The complex implications of “feminization” in humanities disciplines are examined by Lynn Hunt, “Democratization and Decline? The Consequences of Demographic Change in the Humanities,” in What Happened to the Humanities? ed. Alvin Kernan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), 17-31, esp. 20-23 (quoted phrase on 20). []
  58. From the National Opinion Research Center, A Profile of Research Doctorates, 1960-2000 (Chicago: NORC, 2002), a special summary of the Survey of Earned Doctorates prepared for the American Historical Association. []
  59. Unfortunately, the U.S. Census Bureau does not have time-series data on specific levels of education beyond the bachelor’s degree for adult males, so comparison of fathers with master’s degrees with the general population is impossible. []
  60. For the early period, see Perkins and Snell, Education of Historians, 43. []
  61. On the problem of achieving adequate funding, see Geiger, “Doctoral Education,” 245-46. The history Ph.D. cohort that completed their degrees in 1958 reported that only about one-third had stipends (though many had direct funding from the G.I. Bill). Perkins and Snell, Education of Historians, 149. []
  62. Student Financing of Graduate and First Professional Education, 1999-2000 (Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, 2002). In 1958, one-third of history Ph.D.’s graduated in debt. Perkins and Snell, Education of Historians, 51. Ongoing research by Theresa Sullivan at the University of Texas suggests that undergraduate debt significantly affects career choices, including graduate school. []
  63. Ronald G. Ehrenberg, “Studying Ourselves: The Academic Labor Market,” Presidential Address to the Annual Meeting of the Society of Labor Economists, Baltimore, May 2002, at See also the annual reports of the College and University Personnel Association, which document comparable trends in salaries. []
  64. Roger Geiger “The American University at the Beginning of the Twenty-first Century: Signposts on the Path to Privatization,” in Trends in American and German Higher Education, ed. Robert McC. Adams (Cambridge, Mass.: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2002), 50-51. []