One of the most notable blogs I’ve followed this semester is the Historians/History blog on the History News Network. At the beginning of the semester, I originally questioned if this would be a suitable “academic” blog, as it did resemble many non-vetted, questionable internet “news” sites. However, the longer I followed it, the more it became clear that the articles and posts reflected research being done by actual historians posed in a way to attract greater readership. This is one of the major problems we’ve been discussing in class: The problem that the work of historians, especially in recent decades, fails to reach far outside of academia. Therefore, I found this blog to be particularly useful and intriguing in this regard; it presents the work of historians to the general public in a fun and interesting way.
Admittedly, due to this goal to popularize, the site does not tend to post much that supports my research. Instead, it posts generally interesting updates from the field. For example, a post recently popped up about Stonehenge not being originally built where it is now, which I also saw posted on science blogs that I follow. That said, some of the articles are not entirely irrelevant to me. I am particularly interested in evolutionary biology and its effects on human psychology, as any conversation with me might bring to the surface. There are two sub-blogs that post unfortunately rarely, but are still intriguing: “(R)evolutionary Biology” and “Stone Age Brain,” the latter of which is actually run by the founder of the HNN, Rick Shenkman. Not only are some of the book references good sources for possible research, but it also shows that historical research on some of these ideas is not unprecedented.
One possibly troubling facet of the blog is its unapologetically liberal slant. Though one might argue that the facts of history themselves lead to liberalism and that much of conservatism arises from ignorance of these facts, I still believe that it alienates aspects of one’s readership to give articles titles like, “Reagan Welcomed Hundreds of Thousands of Boat People. And Today the GOP Is Demonizing Refugees?”. I would personally make that point in the body of my text and avoid a polarizing title that – I’ve seen too many times – leads many to refuse to read the article and form an uninformed, pre-conceived opinion just from the title. Were the title more enticing for those who might disagree (perhaps, “Here’s how Reagan Dealt with Refugees”), the article might have actually reached and affected those who are not part of the proverbial “choir.” To be fair, the article above did fall under the “News” section, and the “Historians/History” section has been significantly more diplomatic. Temporarily forgiving the arguably “click-bait” title, “This Is What Happens When an Historian from Iraq Teaches Veterans of the Iraq War in a US Classroom” is a title that invites readers of all opinions, and the article itself shows that veterans were actually fascinated to learn Middle Eastern history, even if it placed the conflict in a wider context of U.S. imperialism and oil politics.
Perhaps with popularized websites like HNN, historians could have a good digital outlet to allow their research to see the light of day.