Dream: The "objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession
and above all, L.Geiger’s
History of the University of the Northern Plains
The shadow of this last work, a fineexample of institutional history, looms large behind these three chapters.All things being equal, I would have liked to capture more of the experience of studyingat the University during the first half of the 20
century. At the same time, I have also neglectedto follow the example of the best kind of modern history which captures the personalities of themain characters in the narrative; for long stretches this history reads like the worst kind of prosopography, where individuals fade away behind an endless litany of credentials,accomplishments, and dissertation advisors.
Themes in the History of the Department of History
Whatever the faults in my research and analysis (and with apologies to Elwyn Robinson)there do appear, quite distinctly several “Themes in the History of the Department of History”.Most of these themes have come to light only with the benefit of hindsight and, consequently, arenot as prominent in my chapters as they perhaps could have been. In the interest of transparency,it must also be said that these themes may have resonated in my sources largely on account of their presence in the contemporary departmental discourse.1.
Lack of Resources. Hardily a report of the department lacked a cry for more resources.The requested resources might be earmarked for the library, for the seminar room, facultysalaries, office space, or even equipment. With the understanding that no department islikely to claim itself well-funded and that administrators are more likely to provide greasefor a squeaky wheel, the is almost no question that the study of history ranked low on theUniversity’s list of priority even from its earliest days.2.
High Turn Over of Faculty. Closely related to the first theme, the turn over of faculty both junior in rank and occasionally senior in rank is a constant factor in the departmentaldiscourse. It is clear that the typically high quality of junior faculty made it possible for them to move on to better positions at typically more research oriented universities (oftenin warmer climes). It is also clear that the departmental culture has not always been a
That Noble Dream: The "objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession
. (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press 1988).
University of the Northern Plains
. (Grand Forks, ND: University of North Dakota Press, 1958)