A brief history of Oregon historians

Historians in the News

Where are the historians of Oregon? Why do we hear so little about them?

We get plenty of stories about the state's novelists, memoirists and journalists but a minimum about the historians. Why is that? Are historians simply as uncharismatic as last year's bird nest? Have we just overlooked or forgotten them?

In this regard, Oregon mirrors larger American cultural landscapes. U.S. historians rarely attract the national or global attention poured on novelists and biographers.

Check names of international award winners. The list of American historians as Nobel Prize winners is nonexistent, zilch, nada. Except for scholars whose first interests are science or economics, no one with a history background has won a Nobel Prize. As in Oregon, the most prestigious awards very infrequently go to historians.

Enough questions and finger-pointing. We need more answers and information about Oregon's chroniclers and their writings worthy of renewed attention.

In the 19th century, Oregon historians or would-be historians devoted their pages primarily to describing new peoples, landscapes and experiences they encountered coming into the Oregon Country. Bona fide historians were in short supply.

But Frances Fuller Victor changed that. She was the first Oregon historian to gain regional and national notoriety. Victor came to Oregon in the 1860s after earlier stops in New York, Michigan and California. A decade later, separated from her husband, Victor returned to California, where she labored more than a decade in the history factory of prominent Western historian Hubert Howe Bancroft before coming back to Oregon....

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