Back in 1998 or 1999 as the end of the twentieth-century approached, all of a sudden Perspectives and the H-Net Job Guide were chocablock with advertisements for twentieth-century historians, particularly U.S. historians. Beginning in the fall of 2002, in response to the 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, it seemed like most departments with open lines were looking to hire historians of the modern Middle East or of U.S.-Middle East relations. And, there are still a large number of medieval history job descriptions that state a preference for medieval Europe and Islam in a comparative framework, or medieval Mediterranean history. Sadly for Historiann’s Russian history friends in graduate school in the early 1990s, interest in that field took a nosedive after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the events in Russia in the summer of 1991. This influence of current events is hardly surprising, and I think reflects a (mostly) admirable commitment to using the past to open new perspectives on the present.
In the event of a Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton presidency, what will its effects be on History hiring in the fall of 2009 and for the next few years? Will we see a renewed interest in hiring African American historians and women’s historians, particularly those whose work is in political history? The rise of the history of the 1960s and 1970s in recent years, which will be big at the Berkshire Conference this year, may mean that historians of very recent U.S. history will be beneficiaries of a Clinton or Obama presidency, too. Would a John McCain presidency mean a renaissance in military history (or even naval history?) I can think of a group of people who may be rooting for a Mike Huckabee presidency, even if mostly for the job, publishing, and punditry opportunities.
Historiann has already been interviewed by a college journalist in Michigan about this historic election year–and bear in mind that it’s February, and she’s a colonial historian, not a modern U.S. women’s historian or African Americanist, so it strikes me that 2008 will be a historic election if only because it’s generating very strong interest in, well, American history. Do you think it will influence History department hiring trends in the next few years, depending on the outcome of the November election? Do you approve or disapprove of current events influencing History hires? What fields do you think your department needs to hire in? (And if you’re among Historiann.com’s wide interdisciplinary readership, please chime in from your own perspectives on current events and hiring in your fields.) Inquiring graduate student lurkers want to know…
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