Wednesday, September 08, 2004


After two years of blogging experimentation, including a few missteps, I hope that this online journal will prove to be my best effort yet. Simply put, this will be a forum for long pieces, short blurbs and references to other sites that all deal with the intersection of history with politics.

There are plenty of liberal historians who have proven scholarship and who freely offer their political opinions. My hope is that this sight can provide information and inspiration to other conservative historians, whomever they are (and no matter how few they may be). It is not a "conservative interpretation of history" so much as a "conservative's interpretation of history." No, I'm not stuck in the '50's or believe that the "history of dead white guys" is the only legitimate kind (and don't know many conservatives who believe that either, by the way). What I do believe in is an honest, contextual assessment of historical figures and events. Understanding doesn't mean agreement and historical judgements should be devoid of presentism and anachronism. Scholarship provides historians with significant rhetorical ammunition. Blogging allows Historians to engage in debate and dialogue at a quicker pace than through the Journals. This is both a dangerous and exhilerating confluence and historians should always be on their guard. None of us wants to be accused of being "sloppy."

The goal of writing Spinning Clio is twofold. First, History is one of the "primary sources" used by those of all ideologies in crafting their political rhetoric. By using this blog, I hope to point to writings that seem to offer a more conservative, or at least less liberal, interpretation of History. Related to this, I will also endeavor to critique instances of "History abuse" whereby history is used to support a political argument in an innacurate or obfuscating way. As can be predicted, these critiques will tend to be of work produced by those on "the left."

Second, in the spirit of the historian E.H. Carr (from whom I got this site's subtitle), I will occasionally delve into the concept of ideology, which Carr defined as "where history and politics meet." This will also allow me to further deepen my understanding of ideology, first inspired by reading Bernard Bailyn's "Ideological Origins of the American Revolution," and help me to investigate all of the interpretations, misinterpretations and attempts to stretch or disprove the concept.

I have not hidden the fact that I am conservative, putting me in the minority in the historical profession. Will this admission hurt me professionally in the future? I'm not sure, but I think that if all historians divulged their biases, thereby enabling others to make a better critical reading of their work, the profession would benefit. I believe that too many historians let their ideology drive their scholarship. They have a societal template lodged in their mind and write their History to fit that template. (This is another way of critiquing those who hold to a "school" too stringently). With this in mind, I attempt to hold to the historian's ideal of being non-biased in my academic research and writing. (Especially as I am still learning the craft). I am aware of my biases and attempt to make an effort to keep these out of my scholarship.

While I am a conservative, I am not close-minded and I maintain many permanent links to many "left-leaning" sites. I regularly peruse their work and don't dismiss them or their point of view out of hand because, above all, I believe in discourse. I believe that all legitimate and credible viewpoints should be heard. (I can hear the postmodernists now: Who decides what is legitimate and credible and how can they really know...) Historians can have different opinions and ideas on contemporary subjects and still respect the work of different-minded colleagues. Debate is viewed as healthy in academic writing: I don't see why it can't be viewed the same way in contemporary politics as discussed by Historians. Because I may disagree with a liberal historian does not mean either of us are stupid, malevolent or an intractable ideologue.

Discourse between those of differing opinions enables each to hone their arguments and prompts deeper critical thinking. It seems this classical understanding of learning is burgeoning on the Internet. I only wish it would find its way back behind the walls of academia. Perhaps as more liberal historians engage conservative historians in debate, they will discover that conservatives don't all fit the hobgoblin stereotypes. In turn, perhaps this will lead to the opening of the gates of the Ivory Tower and a seat at the table for conservative academics. We don't all value money over a "higher calling." We just need the opportunity to prove that we can produce valuable and innovative scholarship, too.

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