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


gerard_fitzgerald <gfitzgerald@...>
 

Wow... this is just like last time.

I suppose at best I can say this is what Kuhn called
incommensurability, at worst just plain insulting. Apparently Mike
among others misread (?) this as a series of value judgments when my
intent was simply to provide some insights about what historians do,
which I thought would be useful. This began after all with a query
from a history graduate student so I thought such a perspective
appropriate. I guess not.

I wish you all the best of luck.


GJF


--- In STMFC@yahoogroups.com, "Mike Brock" <brockm@...> wrote:

It's a bit difficult to show how the subject of "popular history" as
opposed
to "real history" as the thread currently is proceeding relates to
freight
cars. Hence, I will shortly be terminating the thread except in
those cases
directly associated with frt cars. Before doing so, however, I think
I'll
respond regarding a few comments because they seem to be directly
related to
the STMFC.

Gerard Fitzgerald says:

"... but suffice to say that
there are certain topics which hold the attention of historians for
long periods and others that do not.

As such, certain historical sub
disciplines flourish and become industries in themselves producing
dissertations, books, and papers while other subfields remain
relatively small."

Ok. I would, however, think the results of that might not be a positive.

"Being very active in the history of technology, medicine and American
industrialization (and yes I have a Ph.D.) and as someone who is also
an active model railroader, let me just say that most historians with
advanced graduate training have a different methodological and
epistemological approach to their subject which might be most easily
explained as dealing with context. That is one of things people learn
in their many years taking graduate seminars and later when writing
their dissertation.

For example, knowing the design elements of a particular class of
boxcar would be of little interest to my colleagues (and also usually
to me) unless it was helpful in exploring larger cultural, economic,
technological, or anthropological questions about say local market
economies."

Fine. However, all you seem to be saying is that your colleagues,
peers, and
perhaps those in leadership roles are making arbitrary decisions
about what
study of a particular historical item is useful [ important? ] and
what is
not. That may be a necessity but subjects that may not appear to be
more
important to some is still history as long as the principles of
investigation are not compromised.

"Thompson's book is well regarded because one sees the
application of mechanical engineering technology in freight car design
within the larger framework of the history of California and the
complex relationship within that state between agriculture,
manufacturing, politics, and transportation forces."

Perhaps so but had the book not shown a relationship to the history of
California and the relationship to California's economics etc. its
contents
would still be history. For example, the study of the battle of
Chancellorsville is certainly history but its outcome had little to
do with
social, economic or cultural issues except by, perhaps, prolonging
the Civil
War.

"Let me conclude by noting I am always and intrigued and also a bit
dismayed to see people on this site disparaging those who hold a
doctoral degree. While this no doubt constitutes a very small
minority, it is unfortunate nonetheless."

I see very little disparagement on the STMFC of those with advanced
degrees.
When it occurs my reaction is somewhat the same as it is to those that
criticize historical modelers who strive for accuracy. I would say,
however,
that I personally appreciate those that do not note that they have any
particular educational "title". What does it matter if a member
posting on
the STMFC has a Ph.D. in something unrelated? OTOH, if there were a
degree
program in steam era frt cars and a member had such a "title", I
would give
a bit more attention to what he [ she ] said.

"I can't help but
think that the clarity and force of Tony and Richard's work in print
and online was shaped in no small measure by their many years in the
classroom, both as student and later as professor."

Again, perhaps so. Only Tony and Richard know for sure. I would say,
however, that there are others without that particular academic
training
that also might be able to produce works of clarity and force due in no
small measure to the world in which they "trained".

Mike Brock

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