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  • Writer's pictureOld Bone

Recommended: The Activist Historian

Updated: May 21, 2020

The title was to get your attention. I do NOT recommend activist historians. But do read on, you'll understand . . .

I'm headed to the Allegheny Mountains with my lovely bride for a Valentine get away, but wanted to recommend a post by fellow blogger and historian, Professor Keith Harris before I head west. Professor Harris and I likely disagree on a number of topics regarding American history. Nonetheless, I find his approach balanced, civil and refreshing. He recently posted some thoughts about "activist historians" - a topic I've written about on more than one occasion myself. Here's the part of the post that got my attention:

. . . can one be both a historian and an activist? Why certainly. But I am less convinced that those two things can seamlessly intersect if Truth and objectivity is our goal. I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just suspect when agendas are clearly in play. And really…the rage, dismissiveness, attack dogging, and bandwagoning (especially recently) directed toward even the slightest criticism or disagreement is unbecoming. It’s leaving me longing for 2009. Go ahead and @ me. In your heart you know I’m right.

I could not agree more. And, admittedly, I've been guilty of some of these charges myself. But as I transition to this new website and blog, I'm going to do my best to leave that behind because Harris is right. It is impossible to to intersect historical objectivity with political activism and come off as credible. It just cannot be done. You can be good at one or the other, separately, but not both at the same time. You damage your credibility. And, of course, that applies to both sides of the aisle (though one side of the aisle vastly outnumbers the other on social media). Think about it. To quote the good professor, in your heart, you know I'm right. I'll have some additional thoughts on this topic when I return. I recommend Professor Harris's blog. You can hear his post here.

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