When History Knocks You On Your Behind

Forty Acres and a Starship

Since coming back to graduate school, from time to time I peruse Wikipedia history pages out of curiosity. The articles are always ones about subjects far from what I am currently studying or writing about. They serve as a reminder of why I decided to take a stab at being a historian. Specialization is an understandable element of the modern academy. But I envy older generations of scholars—such as my hero W.E.B. Du Bois—who trained themselves in a wide range of fields. When studying for comprehensive exams in American history, for instance, I read up on Ethiopia’s history in the twentieth century.

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