Ohio History Journal

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11





Associate Professor of History, Western Reserve University

For far too many years, far too many people have been

calling themselves--or permitting others to call them--"histor-

ians." I have been conscious of this ever since I first entered the

ranks of what we academic folk like to think of as the "pro-

fessional historians." But I was never as fully aware of the

dangers inherent in this common practice until I began to pre-

pare this paper. I had intended to call it "Types of Historians."

Then it dawned upon me that this title would not do. If not a

contradiction in terms, it was, to say the least, confusing. In the

last analysis, if there are types of historians, they may be reduced

to two in number--the bad and the good. And since obviously

the former should be liquidated as rapidly as possible (in any

case they should not be permitted to lay claim to the title of

"historian"), only the latter, that is, the authentic historians,

remain. These vary among themselves not according to whether

they are historians or whether they are not, but simply according

to the subject matter (for example, military, economic, religious,

or other) which they treat.

I realize that to many of you this may sound like the pro-

verbial academic dialectic, that it may savor of the pedantic.

But here, as a student of history (note that, at least as yet, I

make no pretense of being an historian), I feel that I must make

my position clear. In order to clarify what I have in mind, let

me define my terms. Proceeding upon the assumption that a poor

definition is better than none, I shall endeavor to indicate what

the terms "history" and "historian" mean, at least to me.

One of my former professors once defined history as "the


* This is the text of an address given at the annual meeting and dinner of the

Lake County chapter of the Western Reserve Historical Society held at the Parmly

Hotel, Painesville, April 27, 1949.