This seemed to be the overwhelming sentiment at this year’s annual American Historical Association meeting in Chicago. Inside Higher Ed reports on Thomas Bender’s plenary talk: “Where Did We Go Wrong?: The Past and Prospects for the History Profession. You can watch the talk here.
Here is a snippet from the IHE article:
“Such students preferred to pursue the profession of history in museums, historical societies, film making, and the park service, among other possibilities,” according to the paper. But the students fear that if and when their advisers find out their plans, they will not be supportive. That’s why a radical change is needed in the way history departments think: not only acceptance of a new normal, but also a realization that the market may even worsen in the years to come.
Bender, in his paper, said that the idea that academe is the only suitable option for Ph.D students in history took hold in the mid-1950s. “Oddly, not only was this narrowing nourished by the flush times of the so-called academic ‘Golden Age’ that ended in the early 1970s, but it even accelerated during the hard times since,” he said.
Bender called out to historians to recover the deep roots of history beyond the world of academics. He even tackled what many would call the elephant in the room by calling for departments to produce fewer Ph.D.s. and suggesting that the AHA encourage the shutting down of subpar programs.