I have a new post up at Progressive Historians:
….Historians are not theorists, though they may entertain certain theories in the course of interpreting an event they do not begin with answers as does a theorist but with questions. Questions they try to answer with research and evidence because history, while not a science, is an empirical discipline. Historians are not poets, they do not aim to create sweeping, romantic, myths, though like anyone else, historians admire mythic ideals but their task is to reveal where reality may have fallen short. Historians are not social scientists, though they sometimes borrow their tools; nor are they economists constructing abstract models hoping to predict events. A historian who tries to predict what will happen based upon the past is engaging in futurism, a very different and more difficult art.
….The public is not well prepared to handle or comment upon historical monographs of an esoteric or technical nature, only other specialists can do that. Nor are historians who have spent most of their career in a very rarefied subfield – say researching currency fluctuations in the Spanish Netherlands during the early modern period or Women’s social status in the Caribbean during the late Colonial era – well positioned to write a panoramic history of Western civilization, of the history of technology or similarly big picture subjects desired by the layman who wants to “read some history”. At least not without a major time investment.”
Read the rest here.