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Back to September Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 284 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS SEPTEMBER 2009

Traditional History Courses Are in Decline
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The teaching of history has changed significantly since the 1960s, with modern history departments deemphasizing great people and events and instead calling students' attention to social and cultural history and trends.

"The boomer generation made a decision in the 1960s that history was starting over," Naval War College history professor David Kaiser explained to the New York Times. As a result, today the teaching of history "is no longer focused on government, politics, or institutions" — in other words, on the field of diplomatic history. This change in focus recently became even more evident when the executive editor of the journal Diplomatic History, the sole publication devoted to the subject, proposed changing the journal's name.

Since the 1970s, the number of history professors at four-year institutions has more than doubled, but the growth has primarily occurred in newer specialties such as women's or gender history. Four out of five history departments now boast at least one faculty member who focuses on women's history. Just half of departments employ a diplomatic historian, and 31.7% employ an economic historian. In 1975, three-quarters of history departments had at least one diplomatic historian, and 54.7% had an economic historian. Intellectual and constitutional history have also shrunk as specialties, while cultural history has grown.

Brett Lintott, a Ph.D. student in international relations at the University of Toronto, said that "being a young historian in this field is thus a rather lonely and sobering experience." Some historians in more trendy fields, according to Lintott, feel and express "genuine derision" toward the study of international relations in history. (New York Times, 6-11-09)


 
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