As a financial historian, I was quite isolated in Oxford – British historians are supposed to write about kings – so the quality of intellectual life in my field is much higher at Harvard. The students work harder there.
Historians partial to Kennedy see matters differently from those partial to L.B.J. Vietnam has become a point of contention in defending and criticizing J.F.K.
Cotton Mather’s publications in his own lifetime amounted to more than 400 titles, and his magnum opus, on which he labored most of his life, remains unpublished: a commentary on every verse of every book of the Bible. Anyone who leaves that kind of record behind issues an irresistible invitation to historians.
The quarrel of the sociologists with the historians is that the latter have learned so much about how to do it that they have forgotten what to do. They have become so skilled in finding facts that they have no use for the truths that would make the facts worth finding.
Truman is now seen as a near-great president because he put in place the containment doctrine boosted by the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan and NATO, which historians now see as having been at the center of American success in the cold war.
Historians who write about families are usually feminists who think in terms of gender relations.
Reviewers are usually people who would have been, poets, historians, biographer, if they could. They have tried their talents at one thing or another and have failed; therefore they turn critic.
We historians are increasingly using experimental psychology to understand the way we act. It is becoming very clear that our ability to evaluate risk is hedged by all sorts of cognitive biases. It’s a miracle that we get anything right.
History had its own way of explaining things. The way historians explain things is by telling a story.
Historians will look back and say, ‘Foreign policy in the Ford presidency was very much dominated by Kissinger, with a kind of continuity from the Nixon period.’ Ford is not going to be remembered as a really significant foreign policy maker.