Don’t really want to do a women’s library, plus I got reminded that I needed to start with a question, not something thought out I’d inevitably get stuck with further down the line.
Still interested in history and who gets to tell it. Spoiler alert: white men.
Ferguson condemned those behind the race and gender-based attacks on the conference. He compared the New York Times‘ decision to plaster the faces of the speakers in their article to an old anti-semitic practice of condemning the “over-representation” of Jewish people in academia.
Now let’s be clear. I was raised to believe in the equal rights of all people, regardless of sex, race, creed, or any other difference. That the human past was characterized by discrimination of many kinds is not news to me. But does it really constitute progress if the proponents of diversity resort to the behavior that was previously the preserve of sexists and racists?
Publishing the names and mugshots of conference speakers is the kind of thing anti-Semites once did to condemn the “over-representation” of Jewish people in academia. Terms such as “SausageFest” belong not in civil academic discourse but on urinal walls.
Conference organizer and senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution Niall Ferguson defended that the exclusion of women was not deliberate and that the women invited to participate in the panel had declined to do so. Yet, it seems that the lack of diversity stemmed less from packed schedules to a deliberate omission. One is hard pressed not to view the conference Ferguson organized through the lens of his acceptance speech for the 2016 Philip Merrill Award for Outstanding Contribution to Liberal Arts Education. While admitting that various social and economic reasons account for the decline in history in the last several decades, Ferguson argued that the changing content of history is the “best explanation.”
Such content changes, Ferguson explained, are the decline in diplomatic and international history; legal and constitutional history; and intellectual, social, and economic history, on the one hand, and the growth in women and gender history; cultural history; history of race and ethnicity; and environmental history, on the other hand. Challenging the larger significance of courses that center women, including one on women and mental illness offered at Stanford University in Fall 2016, Ferguson remarked that such subjects are certainly less important than investigations into how the United States became an independent republic, for example. The problem with “the new history that’s displaced the old,” Ferguson bemoaned, is that “some are so disconnected from contemporary concerns that it is little better than the antiquarianism scoffed at” by the discipline’s forbearers. Others are so overly politicized, “so skewed by contemporary concerns,” that they are ahistorical and anachronistic.