SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • Organization of American Historians;
  • historiography;
  • historicism;
  • Mississippi Valley Historical Association;
  • Ian Tyrrell

ABSTRACT

Richard Kirkendall's collection of essays, The Organization of American Historians and the Writing and Teaching of American History, examines the history of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) from its founding to the present, using that history to illuminate how the writing of American history has changed over the last hundred years. The book provides coverage of all the major dimensions of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association's (MVHA) and the OAH's activities, ranging from the work of its scholarly publications, the Mississippi Historical Valley Review and the Journal of American History, to its role in promoting the teaching of American history. Overall, the essays in the volume tell a story of the organization's progress toward greater inclusion and democracy, falling prey to a Whig interpretation of historiography. In doing so, the book is part of a larger tendency in the way that historians have approached historiography, which in turn reflects their ambivalence about their relationship to the historical process. Thus, even as the very enterprise of historiography is premised on the recognition of how historians are themselves the products of the historical process, historians have revealed the limits to that recognition in their approach to the subject. This essay shows how deeply rooted this duality has been in the study of American historiography and illuminates some of its sources by placing Kirkendall's book in the context of how the MVHA and the OAH have treated historiography over the course of the organization's history.