Monday, March 18, 2013

Blog CXLII (142): Eight Questions: Many Thank Yous

I want to take a moment and thank everyone that contributed to the “Eight Questions” series.  It was an eye opening experience for me.  I learned a lot about the diverse fields that make up history.  We can get a little balkanized in our areas of expertise and can be woefully ignorant of the issues facing others in the profession, even when they are down the hallway from us.  Case in point, a senior historian at a conference came up to me and said he was learning new things about different fields. 

This project, though, was far more difficult than it looks to the outside world and I need to thank a lot of people.  First, let me thank those that wrote some early essays in this series: Isaac Land of Indiana State University, Peter Messer of Mississippi State University, Angela Lahr at Finger Lakes Community College, Jonathan Winkler of Wright State University, Maureen Smith of Cal State Sacramento, Douglas Ford, then of the University of Salford now at the University of Birmingham, and Greg Smits of Pennsylvania State University for their essays.  I know all of them, some better than others.  Land and Messer taught with me at Texas A&M University—Commerce and Lahr replaced me when I went off on a series of fellowships that became a new job.  Smits was finishing his Ph.D. at USC when I was just starting.  Ford, Smith, and Winkler I know from the conference and summer workshop circuits.

The basic point is that I had some type of contact with those six and since they knew me, they did a favor for me in making their contribution.  That makes those that I want to thank next even more special.  Most of the people that wrote in this series do not know me and committed to this project believing in either its intellectual merit or out of a sense of service to the rest of the profession, or maybe both.  These type of thanks are pro forma in a lot of books, but two points are worth making: first, this series would not have existed without them; and two, a lot of people turned me down—some were rather rude about it, and others (including several people I know personally) never bothered to respond.   Either way that makes me extremely grateful for the contributions from John D. Hosler of Morgan State University and Chad Williams, then of Hamilton College and now the chair of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University, wrote his essay at a difficult time in my personal life and I am grateful I had something to keep me preoccupied. I also am deeply grateful for the contributions from Denise Ho of the University of Kentucky and Nic Clarke of the Royal Military College of Canada and the University of Ottawa who also has the distinction of being the first foreign contributor to the series.  Jason Philips of Mississippi State, Timothy Stanley of the Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford, Susan Rensing of the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, and Lauren Kientz Anderson then of the University of Kentucky now of Luther College wrote thoughtful essays.  Anderson was at the time a regular contributor to the U.S. Intellectual History Blog run by the Society for U.S. Intellectual History.  She posted on that blog about the “Eight Question” series, which led to a lot of new visitors to In the Service of Clio.

Nine minutes after I sent Jim Giesen of Mississippi State an e-mail requesting that he contribute, he wrote back: "I've read your blog on a few occasions so I'm delighted by the invitation to participate."  The speed and positive nature of that response was stunning.

Tiffany Trimmer, then of Bowling Green State and now a faculty member at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse  wrote her essay as she was in the early stages of packing and preparing her move.  That might have been above and beyond the call of duty. Siobhan Talbott of the University of Manchester and Daniel Amsterdam of The Ohio State University contributed meaningful and useful essays.  Amerstadam also gave me some useful guidance on his field that I will end up using in my next book project.   
Eileen V. Wallis of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Daniel L. Schwartz of Texas A&M University, and Edward Frantz of the University of Indianapolis wrote the next set of essays.  Frantz and I first made contact with one another through the book review process, when I was both trying find a reviewer for his book and asking him to review another title.  (If you have a new book hit the bookshelves, do not be surprised if you start getting requests to review books; a lot of book review editors do this.)  Frantz also went out and promoted his essay on Twitter, which once again led to a lot of new visitors to In the Service of Clio.
Margaret Peacock of the University of Alabama, Neilesh Bose of the University of North Texas, Robert Bender of Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell and Felice Batlan of the Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology were next.  Batlan then got me to write a book review for the History and Law Review. Steven Bunker of the University of Alabama, Will Hanley of Florida State University, Owen Stanwood of Boston College, Marla Miller of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Joy Rohde of Trinity University, Ruramisai Charumbira of the University of Texas, and Charlotte Brooks of Baruch College, City University of New York wrote the reviews that rounded out the series.

The voices of this series represent a wide, diverse range of experiences in addition to fields of expertise.  These 33 people attended 27 different schools for the Ph.D.  I think these experiences give the series some real authority.  Consider the wide rang of institutions:
  • Harvard University
  • London School of Economics
  • Michigan State University
  • New York University
  • Northeastern University
  • Northern Illinois University
  • Northwestern University
  • The Ohio State University
  • Princeton University
  • Rice University
  • Rutgers University
  • Texas Christian University
  • Tufts University
  • University of Arkansas
  • University of Cambridge, Trinity College
  • University of Delaware
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of Ottawa
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of St. Andrews
  • University of Southern California 
  • University of Texas
  • University of Utah
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Yale University
Several people helped me from behind the scenes. Knowing people in 33 different fields is a bit difficult.  I leaned on a number of people for introductions and recommendations.  They included Peter Messer, John Beeler of the University of Alabama, Galen Peras of the University of Ottawa. Michael Creswell of Florida State University, Mitch Lerner of The Ohio State University, and my departmental colleague George Satterfield of the U.S. Naval War College. Anne Marshall of Mississippi State University, Sana Aiyar of the University of Wisconsin, and John Dichtl, the executive director of the National Council on Public History, all turned me down when I asked them to write essays for the blog, but they went out of their way to recommend other possible contributors.  In each and every case, those individuals said yes.

While there is some good diversity in these scholarly experiences, the schools where they were educated, and where these scholars found employment, there are some shortcomings with the series and I am well aware of them. There were a couple of fields I wanted to include, and never did. There are two reasons. First, at the begining, I established the fields I would approach. I went for several overarching topics. Some of that follows a Americentric definition of history and might reflect the breakdown of teaching responsibilities in a big, research university like the one in which I earned my BA. Guilty as charged...sort of.  Yes, there were several subfields in U.S. history, but other national narratives were covered, and at some point I could not pursue a contribution from every small group. The American Historical Association requires that at least five people indentify themselves in a certain subfield for it to be included in its listings of specializations. I simply could not pursue someone to write a post on New Zealand enviromental history and Utah religious history. Second, I pursued entries representing some fairly big fields and faced constant rejection from specialists in these topics.  Such is life.  No one was under any obligation to contribute, but it really did make me feel particularly grateful towards those that contributed. 

This blog has a lot of readers outside the United States and that is particularly gratifying.  I tried to get foreign scholars to contribute to talk about what is happening in the history profession in other places.  I succeded in several instances.  While this list might still seem a little heavy on the American side, I would point out that several of the scholars that earned degrees from U.S. schools and work in the United States are citizens of other nations.  Long story made short, the list is a little more diverse than it looks at first glance.

To bring this essay to a conclusion, I am quite proud of the work that was done in creating this series.  It could have done more, but what it did was really quite good.  Most of that was not due to me, but others and I am extremely grateful to them. 

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