Blogs > Cliopatria > Becoming Historians Edited By James Banner and John R. Gillis

Apr 27, 2009 12:23 am


Becoming Historians Edited By James Banner and John R. Gillis



[From the Publisher:] In this unique collection, the memoirs of eleven historians provide a fascinating portrait of a formative generation of scholars. Born around the time of World War II, these influential historians came of age just before the upheavals of the 1960s and ’70s and helped to transform both their discipline and the broader world of American higher education. The self-inventions they thoughtfully chronicle led, in many cases, to the invention of new fields—including women’s and gender history, social history, and public history—that cleared paths in the academy and made the study of the past more capacious and broadly relevant. In these stories—skillfully compiled and introduced by James Banner and John Gillis—aspiring historians will find inspiration and guidance, experienced scholars will see reflections of their own dilemmas and struggles, and all readers will discover a rare account of how today’s seasoned historians embarked on their intellectual journeys.


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vaughn davis bornet - 12/25/2009

I see this summary/review from many months ago has attracted no comments.

I was startled to see that the assumption here is birth during World War II. Astonishing.

I was of a Generation that received their doctorates in 1948 to, say, 1952. Earlier, we fought in World War II. We did have the GI Bill, thank goodness.

I tell the story in several chapters of my memoir, An Independent Scholar in Twentieth Century America (Talent,Or., Bornet Books,1995.

The scene is Emory University (undergraduate), UGA, and Stanford University (doctorate).

It may be that a close student of this subject will want to look into this material sooner or later.

Let me say right now that getting History degrees in my day was a no kidding process. I am not at all sure I would do it again.

Requirements and standards were unrealistically high, and many faculty behaved, well, not all that decently. (Maybe we were a bit feisty.)

At Stanford, writtens and orals were entirely on subject matter; candidates didn't have a chance. At Berkeley orals were on dissertations; at least a candidate knew more about that tiny subject than did the "committee." (At Stanford, on orals, one faced the whole Department and reps of the minor(s)!Language exams were unrealistically high with flunking not by linguists but subject matter people) just for the hell of it, repeatedly. Prepared in Spanish and in Southern History, I was informed that neither was acceptable, though Latin American majors could offer the former....

The whole thing was an ordeal, first to last, especially because we were all married, with children. Oh well; my account of the joys of higher education long ago can be consulted in full in my memoir.

VAUGHN DAVIS BORNET Ashland, Oregon

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