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Sep 18, 2006 10:00 am


The End of History



An important article today at Inside Higher Ed reports on how the National Endowment for the Humanities is"revamping" its approach to funding the preparation of scholarly editions of historical documents.

"Revamping" is a euphemism. Another way to put it might be"gutting, with the long-term intention of completely destroying."

The ambition of the Bush crew to do away with the National Publications and Records Commission is not exactly a well-kept secret. But they keep meeting resistance, particularly, it seems, from Senator Byrd.

So now they resort to the clever expedient of undermining both peer review and the role of university presses in publishing collections of documents.

The new policies seem difficult to justify on scholarly grounds -- or even at the level of bookkeeping. We're talking about levels of funding comparable to what the State Department spends on gold-plated toothpicks and fancy napkins.

And yet the moves do make sense, of a kind.

Because, let's face it, the right wing has no great love of history (whether one means by that either the academic discipline or the dimension of reality). Nor does the present administration have any vested interest in its own internal documents ever becoming part of the public record.

Historians take note: Rumors that the Bush folks are incapable of long-term, rational decision-making appear to be greatly overstated.

When it comes to building a state-of-the-art Orwellian memory hole, they have skill to spare.

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David J Merkowitz - 9/18/2006

I don't usually get so nit-picky but I find the conflation of the 'right-wing' with this rather unfortunate current administration to be unnecessary. Certainly a component of the politically active right has rather odd thoughts about what history is, but so does some of the more activist left.

With that said, yes this administration is rather Orwellian in the worst way, but shifting toward an digital focus is all that evil compared to some of the NARA stuff they have done.


John H. Lederer - 9/18/2006

"And now the NEH has issued new guidelines — just as scholars were finishing grant applications — granting preference to those projects that make all of their documents freely available online. While the scholars who work on these projects support digitization (and generally do put their work online), they say that the humanities endowment’s plan could make it impossible for university presses to afford to publish their work."

That is the "end of history"?.

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