What’s this? A professional, credentialed academic historian engaging a contemporary political issue from a historical perspective?
Harvard historian Jill Lepore’s The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History is out in print and e-form, and I’m stoked.
I’m excited because the book calls out the dangerously anti-historical and anti-intellectual veins running through the now-ubiquitous Tea Party movement.
But I’m also excited because this book represents a small reversal of a terrible trend that began in the 1960s, when professionally trained historians walked en masse away from writing books for popular audiences, and instead started writing esoteric books pretty much only for each other. This has as much to do with the glut of humanities PhDs all vying for tenure-track positions as with any conscious failing of historians to be, as Socrates urged, the gadflies of a free and enlightened society. But I’m going to lay most of the blame on the historical profession…because who else is going to fix this problem but us?