Monday, September 15, 2008

Unspinnning Clio

79.2 percent of historians self-identify as Democrats (h/t). Many even going so far as to actively campaign for the Democratic Party nominee this year. And that is perfectly fine, patriotic and all that. And yet, we are supposed to believe that when history is written, the biases and predispositions will be self-considered and the unvarnished, and historical "truth" will be produced about the current times in which we live. Right. I'll try to remember that in 20 years. (And I know how loaded all of that prior phraseology was....meh.)

I guess I'm at the "tipping point." If it isn't obvious by now, I've been in a slow process of disengagement with the professional history bloggers out there. I don't comment at HNN or engage other bloggers nearly as much as I used to. Partly because I just don't looking at things the same way an academic does (because I'll never be one--they're right about one thing; it doesn't pay enough!). I guess I just can't relate. I've also stepped back because of a change in priorities. Family and other interests have taken precedence.

I started history blogging because I liked History. I still do. But arguing over the minutiae and marshaling historical arguments to defend political stances has gotten tiresome and predictable. There really is no chance of persuasion or concession when historians talk politics. Cherry-picking historical arguments is easy for all of us and essentially non-productive. Face it, the sides have been drawn, and that's that. Hey, it's OK, but it's just a waste of my time. I can't keep up and, frankly, just don't care anymore.

So, the 79.2% of historians who call themselves Democrats can continue to talk to themselves and bemoan the poor rubes in the hinterlands who get tricked all of the time. Make fun of Bush ( only have a few more months) and think about which reductionist foil you can next set your sights on. Whatever. I'm out. I'll just review some books and post now and then about history when the mood strikes. I'm going to try to keep the contemporary politics far away from here. Spinning Clio is done worrying about the Spinning. I'm going to focus on "the Clio" from here on out.


Tim Lacy said...


While I'm no fan of Bush, I try to limit my sniping to Friday Fun history trivia posts at H&E. The rest of the time, like you, I'm concerned about clio and education.

- TL

Marc said...

Tim, Yeah, I guess I've just found myself going to the blogs of historians who focus more on history (like yourself) then the ones who have gone whole hog on the politics. Thanks.

Tim Lacy said...


Thanks for the compliment---whether deserved or not.

I can understand the temptation to go political---especially in an election cycle where the truth seems to matter less than perception. It's tempting to want to be a soldier for proper representation.

And there's the additional feeling out there---right or wrong---that the country is on the brink of something bad. Emotions are running high.

Even I have been tempted to explicitly reveal my inclinations at H&E. Why? I've been improperly slapped around by a few of my hyper-conservative friends, and I'm sick of it. Sometimes you just want to unload with a string of political swearing, or its equivalent.

In any case, the election will (fingers crossed) be over in 2 months. Then we can all go about our primary business of interpreting and teaching history on a full-time basis. I fear, with regard to your blues, that things will get a bit worse before they get better.

- TL

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Very well said and oh so true. I could have written those words almost verbatim.

My similar thoughts might be of interest:

and . . .

Richard Williams
Old Virginia Blog