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Older professional historians have been aware of the decline of their field since at least the 1990s. The decline of narrative history and the rise of micro history, post modern history, history as cultural criticism, etc has led to an identity crisis of sorts for what it means to be an historian. Gordon Wood, now retired from Brown wrote in 2008 “Present-day graduate students of history are well aware that ‘race, class and gender’ is the mantra they must repeat as they proceed through their studies...yet so suffocating has been the stress on ‘race, class, gender’ issues that sometimes beginning graduate students hesitate to write about anything else.” Tony Judt (1945-2010) was even more scathing in his views on his peers refusal to call out nonsense when they saw it. The fear of being considered old fashioned or unwilling to accept new ideas is pervasive, even when those ideas (see post modern structuralist thought) are destructive to the very work they are engaged in. Wood’s collected book reviews are a helpful antidote. The Purpose of the Past: Reflections on the Uses of History. Also Judt’s When the Facts Change: Essays 1995-2010.

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I was so dispirited and out of things to say in response to this that I'm just sharing the f*ck out of it instead.

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While lamenting this regrettable trend, we should not lose sight of the fact this stuff is exceedingly funny. Measuring skulls to prove racism – poetry.

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Dec 1, 2023Liked by Ian Leslie

The reportage of North Hertfordshire Museum changing the pronouns of the Roman Emperor Elagabalus from male to female is quite interesting in this respect. The mover is described as a local councillor who chairs the relevant committee and says there is "no doubt" that Elagabus presented as a woman. He is backed up by the museum, who in turn cite Stonewall and the Unison LGBT+ section. Meanwhile, actual scholars are clear that we have no sources for what Elagabus felt about anything and that the descriptions of him and his views emerge from later authors and likely amount to attempts by his successor to rationalise his killing. In other words, on this small detail, our understanding of history is being altered literally by political diktat as informed by ideology; quite purposefully in the face of scholarship.

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Professor. Have you seen what one eager academic can make out of a sword in a woman's grave? Archaeologists are already pretending not to know how to sex a skeleton. Even military history has been taken over by the hivemind. Papers must center gender and marginalized whatever to receive a panel spot. Your groundbreaking research on the Eastern Front in 1915 is uninteresting because those are white cisheteropatriarchs. I wish I was kidding about this.

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