Jokes Involving Historians





Recently, HNN reader Jonathan Dresner sent us the following email:

Editor,

Participating in a recent exchange it came to my attention that I can't think of a single historian joke. I can think of lots of funny things students have said about history, great ironic moments in history, and even historians with immense talent for humor. I can think of doctor jokes (including specific specialty jokes) and lawyer jokes, chemist cartoons, computer jokes (What's the difference between a software salesman and a used car dealer? The used car dealer knows when he's lying), quips about economists and philosophers, social scientist duck hunting jokes, etc., ad nauseum.

But if anyone knows a good historian joke, I sure haven't heard it. I don't even know how many historians it takes to screw in a lightbulb.

If you know any historian jokes, please use the form below to share it with our readers.


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Jonathan Dresner - 3/15/2011

Q: How many historians does it take to change a light bulb?
by David Leeson on Sunday, March 13, 2011 at 12:25pm

A: There is a great deal of debate on this issue. Up until the mid-20th century, the accepted answer was ‘one’: and this Whiggish narrative underpinned a number of works that celebrated electrification and the march of progress in light-bulb changing. Beginning in the 1960s, however, social historians increasingly rejected the ‘Great Man’ school and produced revisionist narratives that stressed the contributions of research assistants and custodial staff. This new consensus was challenged, in turn, by women’s historians, who criticized the social interpretation for marginalizing women, and who argued that light bulbs are actually changed by department secretaries. Since the 1980s, however, postmodernist scholars have deconstructed what they characterize as a repressive hegemonic discourse of light-bulb changing, with its implicit binary opposition between ‘light’ and ‘darkness,’ and its phallogocentric privileging of the bulb over the socket, which they see as colonialist, sexist, and racist. Finally, a new generation of neo-conservative historians have concluded that the light never needed changing in the first place, and have praised political leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher for bringing back the old bulb. Clearly, much additional research remains to be done.


Theresa Lynch - 11/19/2003

On page 128 of the 17 November 2003 _The New Yorker_ magazine is a cartoon of a man talking to an angel and trying to get into heaven with a picture of a devil standing behind him. The caption on the cartoon says: "Sorry, Ed, but the revisionist historians finally caught up with you."


Jonathan Dresner - 9/26/2003

Well, to make it a proper duck hunting joke (which requires that all three professions be skewered), it should go like this:

An historian, an economist and a statistician are duck hunting. A duck rises from the lake. The economist jerks his gun up and fires 10 feet in front of the duck. "I'm sure that's where it's going" he murmurs disappointedly. The historian takes slow, careful aim, tracking the duck over a quarter of the sky, fires and misses ten feet behind the duck. "I'm quite positive that's where it was," he says dejectedly. The statistician watches the duck fly off and says quietly, "I'm reasonably certain we hit it at least once."


editor - 9/25/2003

From Ralph Luker's blog on HNN:

HISTORIAN JOKES ... 09-20-03

HNN's current Grapevine set me in search of historian jokes, where else? Goggle. The results were pretty lame, but here they are:

1) British historian David Irving said Thursday night that Adolph Hitler was unaware of the mass killing of Jews at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II.
... Irving said that professors float historical claims like a "Goodyear blimp" and are waiting for someone to come along and prick it.
"I AM THAT PRICK," he said.
– The Daily Californian (UC Berkeley student paper), 2/27/89, p. 1, "Holocaust exaggerated, British historian claims"

2) Two historians, one Chinese, one Jewish, are comparing notes.
Says the Chinese historian: "You know, we have the world's oldest culture. It goes back 4,000 years!"
"Sorry, we have that beat," the Jewish historian. "Our culture is 5,000 years old!"
The Chinese historian's mouth gapes. "Wow! Where did your people eat for 1,000 years?"
– BeliefNet

3)A historian, an engineer and a statistician are duck hunting. A duck rises from the lake. The historian fires first, and shoots 10' over the duck. Then the engineer shoulders the shotgun and shoots 10' under the duck. The statistician exclaimed "got him!".
– Gregory Zarow

4)Then there was the one about the traveling historian and the farmer's daughter ...


A traveling historian whose car has broken down goes to the door of the closest farmhouse. The farmer says, "You can spend the night but you'll have to share a room with my beautiful daughter." "Oh, I don't mind that," exclaims the historian. "Just one thing," says the farmer. "No funny business." "Oh no sir," says the historian. "You can count on me." Just to be safe, the farmer builds a wall of eggs between the two beds in the daughter's room. In the middle of the night, the historian can no longer control himself, busts through the eggs and has his way with the farmer's daughter. They take the rest of the night piecing the eggs back together one by one and rebuilding the wall. The next morning, the farmer goes to his daughter's room and takes a couple eggs to the kitchen to make breakfast. Cracking open the first egg, of course, produces nothing. Cracking open the second egg, likewise. The farmer pokes his head out the window and yells, "OK, which one of you roosters is using a rubber?"
--Adapted from Raneboux


Susan Rosenfeld - 9/21/2003

I can't think of any historian jokes, but I know an archivist joke, a true story, which is about archives, not an archivist, as told by a Minnesota archivist. Warning--probably only people of a certain age--or specialty--will find this funny. The archivist was proudly showing off the shelves and shelves of his Vice-Presidential papers to Hubert Humphrey, in special acid-free boxes embossed with the Vice-Presidential seal. Humphrey looked at the array in front of him and said "I guess I did talk alot."


Jonathan Dresner - 9/20/2003

How many historians does it take to change a lightbulb?

Only one, but to tell anyone else about it you need an entire department: the historian of science to describe the development of electricity; the economic historian to describe the rise of power companies and disposable lightbulbs; the environmental historian to talk about the relationship between replacement bulbs and landfill issues; the political historian to describe the decision-making process in lightbulb replacement; and the social historian to argue about whether more lightbulbs are replaced by women or by men. Graduate students are working on the incandescant-fluorescent issue, but no publications yet.