From lagging book sales and shrinking job prospects to concerns over the discipline’s “narrowness,” myriad factors have been cited by historians as evidence that their profession is in decline in America. Ian Tyrrell’s Historians in Public shows that this perceived threat to history is recurrent, exaggerated, and often misunderstood. In fact, history has adapted to and influenced the American public more than people—and often historians—realize.
Tyrrell’s elegant chronicle of the practice of American history traces debates, beginning shortly after the profession’s emergence in American academia, about the discipline’s public utility. He treats the perils of specialization, historians’ responses to changes in the public’s reading and writing of history, and their roles in school curricula. He also examines the use of historians in and by government and whether historians should utilize mass media such as film and radio to influence the general public. As Historians in Public shows, the utility of history is a distinctive theme throughout the history of the discipline, as is the attempt to be responsive to public issues among pressure groups.
A superb examination of the practice of American history since the turn of the century, Historians in Public uncovers the often tangled ways history-makers make history—both as artisans and as actors.
"Tyrrell's book traces the arc of historical practice, historiographical fashion, and jeremiads about the decline of history . . . from Frederick Jackson Turner and John Franklin Jameson to the challenge of New Left historians. . . . His book deserves reflection and attention from all historians who ponder the profession's future as well as its past."—Jeffrey J. Crow, Journal of Southern History
Jeffrey J. Crow