Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Brendan McConville on the Professional Study of the American Revolution

Brendan McConville of Boston University, a friend and fellow Jersey boy, delivers one of his usually stirring lectures.  This one is at the American Revolution Reborn 2 Conference at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston.  McConville pulls no punches.  It is one of the best lectures I have heard in a long time, and I agree with most of it.  I know that Brendan has been taking a lot of heat for this lecture, but some of these things needed to be said.

Here are some provocative quotes:

"If you add the word "Atlantic" or "world" or "global" or "continental" or "race" to a study, it does not necessarily make it any more interesting or comprehensible. At this point they have become cliches rather than offering insight or direction."

"By privileging novelty over mastery,  we have reached a strange impasse."  If you want to hear Brendan really riff on this point, fast-forward to the about twenty-minute mark.

"We have run out of oceans to call 'worlds'...and have run out of "borderlands."

"Digital humanities does not exist....we need to stop worshiping the tool box."

I also noticed that Brendan's graduate school adviser Gordon Wood is in the audience.  I have no doubt he loved this speech.