How to be a historian

Editor: Herman Paul

What makes a good historian? When historians raise this question, as they have done for centuries, they often do so to highlight that certain personal attitudes or dispositions are indispensable for studying the past. Yet their views on what virtues, skills or competencies historians need most differ remarkably, as do their models of how to be a historian (‘scholarly personae’). This volume explores why scholarly personae were, and are, so important to historians as to generate lots of debate. Why do historians seldom agree on the marks of a good historian? What impact do these disagreements have on historical research, teaching and outreach? And what does this tell about the unity, or disunity, of the field called historical studies? In addressing these questions, How to be a historian develops a fascinating new perspective on the history of historiography. It challenges conventional narratives of professionalization by demonstrating that the identity of the ‘professional’ was often contested. At the same time, it shows that personae could be remarkably stable, especially in relation to race, class and gender assumptions. With chapters by Monika Baár, Ian Hunter, Q. Edward Wang and other recognized specialists, How to be a historian covers historical studies across Europe, North America, Africa and East Asia, throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in liberal democracies and authoritarian regimes alike. The volume will appeal not only to readers of historiography, but to all historians who occasionally wonder: what kind of a historian do I want to be?

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