Why History Matters: Practical Impacts of Historians' Work

AHA Session 164
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Maryland Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level)
Heather E. Streets-Salter, Northeastern University
Jon Middaugh, Naval History and Heritage Command
Ricardo A. Herrera, School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College
Jessie Kratz, National Archives and Records Administration
Edward Lengel, White House Historical Association

Session Abstract

Title: Why History Matters: Practical Impacts of Historians' Work

This roundtable brings together historians whose work frequently has left an impact in the “real world” outside of the classroom. Offering a diverse range of backgrounds and experience from the public and private sectors, the panel will suggest ways in which historians can demonstrate their relevance in an era that seemingly prioritizes instant analysis.

The roundtable will cover much ground. Discussants will touch upon how their work has spurred public officials to support historical commemoration and preservation. A couple participants will comment on the influence their books have had on the public. Other topics will include how historians have informed public policy creation and national security efforts. At a general level, the conversation seeks to provide empirical examples of how history and historical methods of thinking remain relevant to present day problems. By doing so, panelists hope to contribute evidence that can counter skepticism about the value of history and the humanities in the digital age.

Two presenters will explore instances of their work’s impact in or from the host city for this year’s AHA conference. Ed Lengel, chief historian for the White House Historical Association, comments on a range of moving experiences his efforts have inspired at national monuments, Mount Vernon, and Arlington National Cemetery. An author of popular histories addressing entrepreneurialism, leadership, and war, Lengel also shares glimpses of how his written work has influenced his readers. Jessie Kratz’s work as the historian for the National Archives, meanwhile, uses a range of media to push the nation’s historical documentation to the country and beyond. Her comments will illuminate how her approaches have translated into action, and she will also suggest ways in which legislatures have relied on historians in the crafting of new laws.

The ways in which historians have informed military and national security thinking provides context for the comments from the last two panelists. Ricardo Herrera, from the School of Advanced Military Studies at the US Army Command and General Staff College, constantly engages military and civilian practitioners who help shape national security issues. How the impact of historians compares with that of political scientists will be one of the questions he develops. The fourth panelist, Jon Middaugh, shares instances of how his and others’ historical efforts have influenced his quarter-century of military experience and time as a historian for the Navy and Army.

Finally, the panel’s chair, Heather Streets-Salter, will assess, among other things, how the panelists’ observations intersect with her experiences with scholarship and while leading graduate programs and guiding pedagogical improvement. The historical methodologies and understanding we promote in the classroom have currency in society as well. This panel will offer several examples to support that case and then invite comments and questions from the audience.

See more of: AHA Sessions