David Frum’s recent article in The Atlantic, “The New History Wars,” addresses the recent controversy surrounding James Sweet’s September address as the President of the American Historical Association, the largest and arguably most important professional organization for historians in the United States. Frum interviewed Sweet for the article, which covers contentious debates surrounding Sweet’s address and his concerns about the future of the historical profession. The Historifans editorial team wants to address one particular statement that Sweet makes in the article: “I worry there will be a move to de-emphasize the single-author manuscript: the book. Instead, anything that uses the historian’s craft or skills could count as scholarship. The most radical version might even include tweets, or at least blogs or essays online. How do you determine, then, what is political and what is scholarly?”1
The way people researched and wrote history 100 years ago is of course different than the way we, as historians, do so today. We have the power to innovate and engage in conversations that happen inside and outside of paywalled journal articles and single-authored monographs. Of course, this is not to say that scholarly journal articles and monographs no longer have value. Yet, these traditional signifiers of scholarly achievement are not the only ways we can and should assess productivity and impact on the field of history. There are growing numbers of open access academic journals in many disciplines, and Historifans is part of this important and growing interdisciplinary trend. Today, more than perhaps ever, we need to bring our analytical conversations outside of the walls of our academic institutions and the covers of our single-authored monographs.
From the earliest days of Historifans, we have believed that our website should be a place for rigorous scholarly inquiry that is accessible to the public. Since we launched in summer 2022, we have published exceptional articles that engage with rich primary and secondary sources, apply the work of intellectuals like Frantz Fanon and Edward Said to pop culture, and interrogate complex historical issues. At Historifans, this is not “radical;” we believe in using our tools as historians to create exciting and inclusive conversations that can ultimately encourage all of our readers, both academic and non-academic, to think critically about the world around them, especially about the media we consume on a daily basis.
Analytical and critical inquiry are at the heart of what we do at Historifans. We are disappointed and disheartened to hear the President of the American Historical Association question the legitimacy of our meaningful and important scholarship. We look forward to a future in which the leading voices in our field not only recognize the value of our work, but also the dire need to expand the reach of the discipline of history.
In closing, we want to thank our contributors for choosing to write for Historifans. We are proud of everything that we have published and recognize the importance of your contributions to the discipline of history. We also want to thank the rest of the Historifans editorial team for their dedication to this project and our goal to create more inclusive conversations about history.
The Historifans Editorial Team
- David Frum, “The New History Wars,” The Atlantic, October 30, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/10/american-historical-association-james-sweet/671853/.