History today often seems deeply divided, as public historians and educators complain about the disengagement of academics and college and university professors pursue increasingly esoteric subjects of research. Robert Townsend spoke on the findings of his recent book, History’s Babel, which looks back to the early decades of the historical enterprise to show how efforts to professionalize pushed history specialists (in archives, historical societies, and teaching) away from each other. This seminar presentation offered a wide-ranging discussion of the many different professions of history and what they mean for the discipline.
Robert Townsend is deputy director of the American Historical Association and author of History’s Babel: Scholarship, Professionalization and the Historical Enterprise, 1880-1940 (University of Chicago Press, 2013). His more than 200 articles on various aspects of history, higher education, and electronic publishing have appeared in publications ranging from Perspectives on History and AHA Today to the Chronicle Review and A Different Kind of Web (Society of American Archivists, 2011). He received his doctorate from George Mason University in 2009. History’s Babel is available in both print and electronic form.
A webcast is available at The End of the Historical Enterprise.