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I call my YouTube channel and my Substack "MakingHistory" because that's sort of the top-level thing I do. I write and talk about the past for my students at the university and for my audience online. I try to call attention to events and interpretations that are not necessarily the ones that receive the most attention. Sometimes I challenge the "master narrative", which I define as the events of the past most commonly focused upon and the explanations of why they mattered and what caused them to happen.

I like to focus my attention on combinations of people and events that may be less well known. I like interpretations and causal links that may not be widely understood or accepted. There are a lot of surprises in the past and I think exploring things that may have been accidentally forgotten or deliberately ignored may tell us things we ought to know.

I think there's a big gap between rhetoric and reality, rationalization and actual motivation, which many historians seem to be unable to understand. But I also don't think that anyone I disagree with is necessarily disingenuous. A historian's job is understanding what others are saying about the past and participating in an ongoing conversation with others about history. Not only with other historians, but also with folks in other disciplines, in politics, in the media, and in the community. When we engage with other historians, we call what results Historiography. Becoming acquainted with this conversation is a huge element of the first couple of years of grad school for academic historians. Reading and reacting to foundational texts is how we build "teaching fields" in areas like American Social or Cultural History, or Environmental History. Then we're tested (in both written and oral exams) to prove we understand the contours of these fields and have something to contribute to the discourse.

I have read a lot of books over the years, to gain these "fields" and then to maintain myself in them by keeping up with their ongoing evolution. Many of these texts have influenced the ways I understand and interpret the past -- the ways I make history. So I thought I'd start adding some of my notes on the writings of historians that have been important to me. I'll call this section "Historiography" and it will have its own tab in the menu. My reactions to these texts will of course be based on my own interests and the questions I brought to them. As they say, your mileage may vary.

I may also respond to things that people who are not professional historians say about the past. In the same way that I want to write about the past for regular people as well as for my academic peers, I care about the ways people use ideas about history to explain the present, justify their actions, or make plans. Everyone uses an understanding of the past to inform their present, so as historian Carl Becker suggested a century ago, every person is their own historian.

Click here or on the photo to get to the Alphabetical List.