Re: Is what we're doing REAL history??

Thomas Baker

Some members of this group may be too young to know that at one time--when I began my college years back in 1959, for example--very few in the academic world wrote very much about railroads. Oh, yes, one could find dissertations on the economic aspects of railroads, on some of the better-known financial dealings of a Jay Gould perhaps, but very little on reliable and readable corporate history, such as one finds from Indiana University Press, Northern Illinois University Press, the University of Minnesota Press, and many more that I know little of.

Serious academics did not write about railroads and certainly not about freight car history or construction. If they did, their achievements must have been accomplished in the most obscure of circumstances or remained in dissertation form never to see a wider public. The matter appears to be quite different today. Whether the authors of the PFE book are academics I can't say, but their work--in my view--qualifies. Perhaps one can only say so much about Hitler or Jane Austen and in the search for topics, something interesting and relevant such as railroads in all their varied manifestations acquired respectability.

Tom Baker
Eau Calire, Michigan

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