A Conversational Manifesto I

I occasionally maintain an Inner Dialogue (ID). This ID began on a commuter train traveling between Boston and New York and has continued since.

ID: So you want to start your own blog? Does the world need another blog?

JDH: Although a flippant response might be, “Everybody else is doing it,” a better answer is that as an historian I sometimes feel the need to write occasional pieces. These don’t rise to the level of publishable. They may not even be thoughts I’d defend a week later, but they might offer an opportunity to think about a topic or get others to think about a topic.
ID: Are there additional reasons to have a blog?
JDH: I can think of several more…
1. I want to maintain contact with students after a class is over. My teaching at Northwestern College in Minnesota has been enriched by generating conversations with students that stretch over a semester and sometimes longer. I really would like to continue conversations with current and former students over issues raised in class.
2. People asked for it. At the close of the last round of my “American Religious History” class, two students particularly suggested that a blog would be a great idea to keep ideas flowing. So, if this succeeds, special thanks should go to Paul L. and Rosie M. for encouraging its development. Upon hearing this idea, many others have seconded the idea.
3. This is a great way to keep people in the Midwest (and elsewhere) updated on what’s happening during the 2012-2013 academic year. During this sabbatical year, I’ve relocated with my family from Minnesota to Princeton, New Jersey. I’m the Garwood Visiting Fellow with the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. I’ve heard a lot of requests to know what’s going on academically and intellectually. One content source for the blog will be reporting on lectures and presentations I get to take in.
4. This blog could be a great source for promoting forthcoming publications.
ID: Oh, you think you’ll have forthcoming publications?
JDH: I can let the world know that my first book is now under contract with the University of Virginia Press. The manuscript is entitled “Patriotism and Piety”: Federalist Politics and Religious Struggle in the New Nation. I look forward to sharing updates on the book.
ID: Do you have a name for this new blog?
JDH: Since it will be largely history-related, it needs to have something about that in the title. I’ve picked the name “Historical Conversations.” History works best as a conversation. This is true in scholarship, as historians present their work at conferences and in journals and then get to improve their work via the feed-back they receive. The practice of history is a conversation between the historian and the primary sources he (or she!) interprets. Historiography could be seen as a developing conversation between works of history. In the classroom, the best classes are those that nurture conversations not only between professor and students but also between students. Even better is when those conversations carry on after and outside of class, maybe over lunch. I hope that can be nourished even on a blog. As a result, I’d be delighted if the Comments section became a lively place for exchange.
ID: So what do you plan to blog about?
JDH: Whatever I find interesting. I anticipate there will be things about early American history, American religion and religious history, religion and politics. One element I’m excited about including is to tie web articles on current events or commentary to themes from courses.

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