What is the role of historians?
Should their goal be to spread history to the masses or to analyze and (re)interpret history?
Many historians have little writing skill, and while writing is to some extent easy to learn, the real problem is that most historians write for other historians. Historians can look past the dry sentences to the content because theyâ€™re used to it and they must, but the general public wonâ€™t stand for it.
Scholarly publishing is changing and publishers are looking for interesting research from historians who can write well. Selling five hundred copies is not profitable, and the publishing houses donâ€™t feel obligated to publish scholarly books that donâ€™t show promise.
Public historians view their main goal as reaching the masses, but academic historians donâ€™t take them seriously. Snobbery in academe is nothing new, but perhaps it should be addressed more within universities. Archivists often pursue original, scholarly research, but academic historians typically look down upon them. Honestly, the majority of academic historians wouldnâ€™t get anywhere in their research without the help of archivists. Archivists are essential to the field of history. Public historians may or may not be essential to historical research, but they are absolutely essential to our society and culture. Memorializing and understanding the past is an important to Americans, and we wouldnâ€™t be able to do that well without public historians. They may care more about teaching than they do about research, but is that really such a bad thing?
Community college professors are also essential in American society, but are often seen as professors who simply werenâ€™t good enough to teach at a university. As a former community college student who had Ivy League-trained professors I greatly benefited from their teaching and guidance. I wouldnâ€™t have entered the field of history without them, and I likely wouldnâ€™t have gotten into a “Public Ivy” (The University) as an undergrad without them.