Historians as Public Intellectuals
Zenpundit‘s Mark Safranski has an interesting take on “The Virtues and Vices of Historians as Public Intellectuals.”
The chief virtue: “Historians have a great deal to offer as analysts because of their command of informational context and practiced experience evaluating the credibility of new evidence within their disciplinary subfields.”
The chief vice: A “preference for the authority of the written word which means we tend to focus on an evidentiary trail that is a) far more incomplete than we tend to realize and b) less reliable than we would like to imagine. Of the records we use, we give greater weight to official documents than did the bureaucrats, statesmen and various officials who wrote them at the time with different motivations, not least of which could be to say as little as possible or to advance the career of the author.”
Political scientists, and perhaps most other scholars, have similar strengths and weaknesses. Blogging compounds this deficit by over-emphasis on information readily available online.