The Historical Society’s 2012 conference is scheduled for Columbia, South Carolina, on 31 May-2 June 2012. I’m intrigued by the theme,  “Popularizing Historical Knowledge: Practice, Prospects, and Perils.” The description reads:

Professional historians in the United States are increasingly being called upon to produce more “popular,” more accessible history. How do and how should academic historians reach popular audiences? How and to what extent is “popular” history written around the world? Does the meaning of and audience for “popular history” vary from place to place? Along with professional historians, states, elites, and a variety of interest groups have long had an interest in sponsoring, supporting, and generating historical knowledge for popular and other audiences. We seek paper and panel proposals that will consider “popular” history in its various guises and locales. How and to what extent is the interest in “popular” history genuinely new? How do and how should historians interact with television and movie production or write op-ed pieces or blogs or serve as expert witnesses? Is there such a thing as a truly “popular” history? Do we need a distinctive “popular” history and are historians properly equipped to write it?

I’ve been thinking about doing a paper on the historical and political statements presented in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. If anyone is interested in putting together a panel, let me know. It could focus on U.S. presidents, public performance, or music; there may be other connections that I’m missing as well.

The deadline for submissions is 1 December 2011.

3 thoughts on “Interested in Panel for 2012 Historical Society Conference?

  1. One way to create an interest in popular history is for historians to educate non-historians on how the historical works are created. Educating non-historian means helping them understand the nature of primary sources and how historians use them to create historical knowledge. The important things to know about primary sources is that they reveal a very small part of what actually happened, that they are not a representative sample, that they were not created for the convenience of historians, and that they cannot be taken at face value. From this scattered and imperfect evidence, historians look for patterns and connections that explain the evidence and make sense as they way things work.

    If you compare consumers of history to consumers of beer, what you want to do is educate beer drinkers to understand what it takes to make a beer, i.e., what ingredients are used, what decisions are made, and how the ingredients are blended and aged. Another way to grow in understanding beer is to do some home brew yourself. This would be like doing a researching and writing a slice of history or genealogy. The idea is to teach the differences among great, good, mediocre, and the lowest form of all, “light” beers.

    One of the most helpful ways to learn how to think like a historian is to listen to historians discuss their work and how they approach it, what problems they confronted, and how they solved them.

      1. Mark,

        Listening to historians talk shop is one of the great things about C-SPAN’s Book TV, especially the Booknotes interviews, which are now archived on line, and panels of historians.

        If you can hook readers on history as the solving of puzzles, you can get them addicted in the way that some people are addicted to detective and spy stories.

        When I was in graduate school, everybody read Robin Winks, The Historian as Detective, which is one of the great introductions to history and detective fiction.

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