For those of you not closely keyed into the beleaguered sensibilities of historians of American foreign relations (a subject that often consumes academic historians but interests few others), Tom Zeiler's direct piece at HNN clarifies why this field remains vital and important and readily dismisses the doom- and nay-sayers. Worth reading.

I was at that SHAFR conference and also specifically at the huge meeting about changing the name of the field and/or the journal or organization, it was a really interesting and thoughtful conversation. I appreciate the comments of the founders of the organization, it was a rare opportunity to have them gathered and thinking about what they created decades ago.

Most of the proposal were interesting. I have some of my own that I was planning to submit to the SHAFR newsletter, so I am sure to put something up on Nunal along the way.

One thing I took away from some of that discussion was that a certain small group of hotshot transnational historians at the verymost elite institutions in the U.S. believe the field should be changed in name, direction, and intent in order to perfectly serve their narrowly specialized and extremely current theoretical modeling while rejecting any understanding of the true lineage or meaning of the field. (Hence, disparaging remarks from the same crew about the founder's comments, which seemed anti-historical as well as disrespectful).

Is that a precise characterization of the whole? Well maybe not entirely, but there was that flavor to it. When one person made a comment about how popular international history was among the new crop of graduate students at Harvard as an example of the direction we all should be going in, I did marvel at the unseemly fealty to hierarchy among this group dedicated to transposing-- if not actually overturning -- these privileged stuctures in their scholarship. Obvious point, yes, but things look different on the nether (subaltern) end of the food chain.

I myself have certainly (and for years) bemoaned the unalloyed insanity of the rest of the historical field in rejecting or sidelining diplomatic history and the stufdy of power, and have never understood those diplomatic historians who are twisted up about this rejection and therefore anxious to find a new master to serve.

Is it hackneyed to cite "Ronin" here? Oh wait, everybody dies in that movie, so forget it.

But, I must note, following trends is not something I can do readily or even at all. To mix realms, I just say that I'm an old time banjo player, for pete's sake, hardwired in the genes to ignore things that are fashionable, trendy, or popular-- let alone employable in hard times or not.


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