Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Why we need more history bloggers

In the new Literary Review of Canada, Terry Cook reviews Writing History: A Professor's Life, Michael Bliss's new memoir:
An honoured historian at the University of Toronto, he disparages the majority of his colleagues as lazy and unimaginative, producing little and complaining much behind the protective walls of undeserved tenure.
Cook doesn't dwell on this, but Bliss also writes things about students, marking, and teaching in general that will annoy or offend many of his fellow professors.

But Bliss's criticisms and arguments seem destined to vanish. They will be seen by individual readers who pick up his book, but sem likely to remain largely undiscussed and undebated.  Despite the efforts of publications like the LRC, we really don't have a reviewing infrastructure in the country anymore.  Newspapers and the CBC have largely abandoned the field in order to promote prizes galas and online book-choice contests. The old venues for this kind of discussion have largely died -- and the review that the CHR may publish about 2014 is no substitute.

For historians who, you know, value discussion of ideas, who welcome controversy, and who appreciate a fresh point of view from time to time, history blogs would seem to be an ideal medium.  I wish we had twenty history professors blogging their response to Professor Bliss's attacks on their (and his) vocation.

But I'm not holding my breath.  Talk to a professor about blogging, and what they want to know is whose permission they would have to seek.

Here, however, is a Q&A with Bliss from the books blog Defining Canada.  The Bliss review is not available in the online LRC, just the print one, but there's lot else there, including an enthusiastic review of Richard Gwyn's Macdonald biography by John English.

(We can't review everything, but we  are always glad to consider volunteered reviews and comments at this blog.  Send an email.)
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