Why this blog? Why am I blogging? More importantly, why should you waste your valuable time looking at this site?
Well, my answer is simple. I have learned a lot about the history profession since I finished my Ph.D. at the University of Southern California in 1997. The type of stuff that you never get told in grad school. Put another way, I have gone through a steep leaning curve in learning “how the game is played.” A friend of mine used that phrase to describe me—he meant it as a compliment—and I have been gnawing for a chance to share my insights about a host of important factors that shape careers and the dialogue that takes place between historians. I have shared a number of the insights with students of mine going off to earn advanced degrees at other institutions and with people I have met and talked with at conferences, but these individuals are only a small handful. I thought about writing a memoir about my first decade as a professional historian with a title like Lessons from the Frontlines: The Memoirs of a Sexy, Young College Professor। This book would have been aimed at grad students and new faculty. The problem is that books take a long time to put together, and I am not sure my ideas would sustain an entire book. With questions about the effectiveness of going the book route, I also had reservations with other venues. I wanted to a lot more than what I could express in newsletter articles, even a series of them. My ideas are also too long for me to express them in a session or two or three at the annual meeting of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. I do love the sound of my own voice, but even I know my limits despite what many people think. After the blogging phenomenon developed, I realized that what I wanted to write was better situated for this medium.
Another important reason for initiating this project is that I want to help my own little sub-set, diplomatic history, come to have more influence in the overall profession। I have some well-defined ideas on how diplomatic historians might go about gaining more stature among Clio’s other minions। Now, I will be aiming a lot of my comments towards issues in my own field, but I think what I have to say will also prove useful and relevant to all historians and most people in the other liberal arts and the social sciences. I think with a little adjustment in specific examples, what this blog will discuss will be relevant to almost all academics. And, of course, these observations that I am about to make are open to anyone who directs their web browser to the address of this blog.
Before we begin, there is one other issue that I suspect is on people’s minds: Why me? What expertise or authority do I have to speak on these issues? Well…good question…and my response is: I thought of it first। As to my expertise, I will leave that to the readers to determine, but if they want a little help they can take a look at my vitae, which is on-line at
http://www.sarantakes.com/NESvitae.doc . I think it will show that I have enough publications, prizes, grants, and fellowships to give me some authority to speak on professional matters.
One last thing: I should explain what the reader will find missing. I have no intention of discussing issues of scholarship. “The problem with the author’s contention is that he makes no effort to put this situation into the political context of…” There are other, traditional forums which are best to discuss these issues, like Diplomatic History and other fine journals. I intend to discuss professional matters that only rarely get their full due.
Okay, lets blog.