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Being a Historian: An Introduction to the Professional World of History Paperback – July 5, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (July 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 110769728X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1107697287
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #366,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"At once a strong advocate and an impassioned critic of the historical profession, James Banner insists in specific and telling ways that history's mansion has many rooms and a public responsibility. What a shame that so many historians are crowded into one room and cut off from our public. All historians, all humanists, should read this book." -Thomas Bender, New York University

"Being a Historian ranges widely and expertly over the past and present forms of historical work. It's the only book I know that offers anything like a survey of the multiple forms of historical practice in contemporary America, and seeks to put them into context. This book is sharp and up-to-date, and it will help to set off discussions that the historical profession and the nation's history departments need to hold." -Anthony Grafton, Princeton University

"James Banner is history's Dutch uncle. His Being a Historian, which examines developments, problems, and issues in the field over the last several decades, pulls no punches and should be required reading for those contemplating careers in history, as well as their teachers and mentors. But readers should not assume that Banner is here making a plea for returning to a mythical or imagined golden age in history-far from it. Informed by an impressive command of recent research and writing on history, as well as a lifetime of varied experience as an historian, Banner finds much about which to be optimistic. His chapter on public history is one of the most perceptive and informed analyses I have seen to date of how the field has developed, including its growing pains and problems, as well as its promise for enhancing historical scholarship and the practice of history in the future. Leaders in the field, for whom public history has become a major focus of interest, would do well to give this work serious attention." -Arnita A. Jones, Executive Director Emerita, American Historical Association

Book Description

A book for beginning and experienced academic and public historians, Being a Historian concerns the condition of the discipline of history in the United States today, what aspiring and mature historians need to know about it, and what might be undertaken to remedy its shortcomings. This is an overview of the diversity of professional history that historians need to consider as they learn and practice history.

More About the Author

I am a Yale graduate and received my Ph.D. in history from Columbia University, where I studied with Richard Hofstadter. My first and only full-time academic position was in the history department of Princeton University from 1966 to 1980, which I left to found the American Association for the Advancement of the Humanities. During those years, I held a Guggenheim Fellowship, was a fellow of the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard, and served as a member of the board of directors of the American Council of Learned Societies. More recently, I was Fulbright Visiting Professor of American History at Charles University, Prague. As a historian, I have of course written books and articles about the past, as well as about education and public affairs. Those books include To the Hartford Convention: The Federalists and the Origins of Party Politics in Massachusetts, 1789-1815 (Knopf, 1969); with James M. McPherson et al., Blacks in America: Bibliographical Essays (Doubleday: 1971); with F. Sheldon Hackney and Barton J. Bernstein, Understanding the American Experience (2 vols; Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973); ed. with John R. Gillis, Becoming Historians (University of Chicago Press, 2009); ed. A Century of American Historiography (Bedford/St. Martin's, 2009); and, most recently, Being a Historian: An Introduction to the Professional World of History (Cambridge University Press, 2012). But having been a teacher all my life in schools and universities, starting when I served in the U.S. Army in France in the late 1950s, I have also thought hard about teaching and learning, which led to two books which I co-authored with Harold C. Cannon, a classicist. Those books are The Elements of Teaching and The Elements of Learning (Yale University Press, 1997 and 1999). I was also, with Joyce Appleby, a co-founder of the History News Service, an informal syndicate of historians who write op-ed pieces, as well as one of the moving spirits behind the founding of the National History Center, an initiative of the American Historical Association. I am now writing a book on revisionist history tentatively entitled "Battles Over the Past: Revisionist History--What It Is, Why We Have It" and hoping for a New York production of a play, "Good and Faithful Servants," drawn from the correspondence between John and Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson. (June 2013)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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I got it for class but it is so difficult to read. I like what he has to say about history and historians in the work force.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Oils on April 3, 2013
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Extremely well structured in both its presentation and content, for those finding and for those refreshing their passion for history. I have drawn the text many times to support my role as an organisational development consultant. Assisting organisations to enhance their performance against global competition often comes down to understanding and learning from one's own organisational history and the organisational history of one's competention in the international marketplace. 'Being a Historian' has proved to be a most valuable learnin and reflection tool for my clients across a diverse range of industry sectors.
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful By HisChild on December 3, 2012
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Purchased as a gift from recipient's Amazon Wish List. She being a history teacher, this will be an added asset to her history book collection. Came quickly.
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