Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Oil history and other neglected fields

Leduc #1, 1947
Andrew Smith, in a recent post at The Past Speaks is right to suggest that historical interest in Canada's oil industry has not matched the significance of the subject.

wrote something similar about oil history here in 2009.  And it struck me too that most of the significant work in the field is done by non-academic historians. I wouldn't call them "antiquarians" as Andrew does, but the point stands.

Indeed, it strikes me more and more how trendy the historical profession is in its choices of what to study and what to encourage students to take up.  Obviously students want to take up what is new and cutting-edge in the profession, but sometimes it seems that for ten years everybody is writing about one thing, and then the next decade there is another hot topic, and then....  

Examples:  well, public memory studies, anything linked to analysis of discourse and constructions of ideologies. Currently environmental history seems to be trending, but I'm old enough to remember when it was demography and histoire annaliste.  Not that any of these are not worthwhile, in their day or since, but not everyone has to do them at once!

Despite the armies of historians and history students we have, it often seems there are vast stretches of important work the the universities are simply leaving undone. The things the country needs to know and the things History departments study don't seem to connect very well.
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