Blogs > Cliopatria > Noted Here and There ...

Feb 18, 2005 5:09 am

Noted Here and There ...

Tristram Hunt's"Historians in Cahoots" in the Guardian sees a connection between the politics of the Bush era and the resurgence of admiring biographies of the Founding Fathers. He's not much impressed by either of them. Thanks to Chris Pettit for the tip.

At Easily Distracted, Tim Burke's"Misrecognitions and Mythologies" continues his reflections on teaching African history, but it reaches to illusions about all of our pasts to which we might want to return.

Haunted by the writing demon, Scott McLemee looks at"Academic Freedom Then and Now" by revisiting Richard Hofstadter and Walter Metzger's The Development of Academic Freedom in the United States on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary. McLemee reminds us of the fragility of traditions only recently acquired.

I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that philosophers tend toagree with philosophers and historianswith historians when we talk about philosophy and history. I've long thought they were the only two disciplines that might be the heart of a liberal arts curriculum. Much of modern philosophy seems to have abandoned all pretense to it; and much of modern history seems to have abandoned all interest in it. But we do need to begin talking with each other again.

The Second Meeting of the Skeptics Circle is up at Respectful Insolence.

Jeff Cooper at Cooped Up has a good piece on"The Shape of a Blog(g)"; and Blurt at Pish Tosh has a good post up on"The Rhetoric of Blog Humor." Thanks to Eugene Volokh and Bitch. Ph.D. for the tips.

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Caleb McDaniel - 2/18/2005

I think what's useful about Carretta's hypothesis, in a teaching context, is that it can help students start to view the Narrative as a text, with specific rhetorical and antislavery aims. They might not see that if they take the narrative as simple reportage. Once we look at the narrative as a text, though, it becomes doubly useful as a source that shows us what kinds of arguments abolitionists were able to mobilize against the trade at this juncture.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/18/2005

I'm inclined to agree with you that Hunt's analysis is flawed: 1) the powerful resurgence of Founding Fathers biography is not at all wholly eulogistic, particularly for example in re Jefferson; but 2) the renewed interest in Hamilton probably does reflect in some ways the "conservative" turn in American politics.

Timothy James Burke - 2/18/2005

It's controversial. Carretta is a respected Equiano scholar, so his suggestion has been taken very seriously. <A HREF = "">This is a good summary of the debate</A>.

Jonathan Dresner - 2/18/2005

I'm not sure that the popularity of biography really has the political overtones that Hunt ascribes. Biography has always been a popular topic and form of history, as has military history, so I don't see a "sea change."

The new biographies are not groundbreaking in themselves, but they are synthesizing substantial amounts of relatively new scholarship and sources. The rise of League of the South history is far more troubling, the Confederate nostalgia histories (like the ones made into movies like "Gods and Generals"), that's troublesome. Hamilton and Jefferson are still fundamental figures whose ideas resonate, and when they are inappropriate to our time we ignore them....

Jonathan Dresner - 2/18/2005

I'm distracted from the rest of Burke's essay by the claim, early on, that Equiano's narrative might not be authentic. This is troubling, because it is still included in a great many World History readers (so's Marco Polo, of course, and that's problematic, too); how will I teach this text (which is often the only one on Atlantic slavery) when I next encounter it? Is this a controversy, or is Carretta's argument largely effective and accepted?

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