Monday, August 11, 2014

History by non-historians

My last post considered William T. Cavanaugh's article on the "wars of religion." I think it's worth noting that Cavanaugh is a theologian, not a historian. Professional credentialing, however, is hardly necessary to make good historical arguments. It certainly helps with detail and nuance--but I also tend to think it makes academics far too cautious. Today's academic historians instinctively shy away from sweeping claims, hiding instead in areas of specialization where their arguments are less vulnerable. But, as I've argued before, since all historical conclusions--no matter how minute and limited--are tenuous, we might as well make big claims and gesture towards sweeping conclusions too.

Cavanaugh doesn't share the contemporary historian's caution, and I am glad for it.