Embattled Intellectual Historians Make a Stand

Historians in the News

Were the 1970s the most boring decade in history?

Anyone reading the popular press at the time might have been forgiven for thinking so. In 1972, The New York Times reported on the Ford Motor Company’s plan to fight boredom on the job and an alternative boredom-reduction plan put forward by the United Auto Workers. The Washington Post, meanwhile, fretted that boredom might be fueling interest in the occult. In 1976, Reader’s Digest declared boredom “the disease of our time.”

But boredom isn’t just boring, Jordan Grant, a graduate student at American University, said in a paper called “Meaning in the Malaise: Boredom and the Remaking of the American Mind in the Seventies,” delivered last week at an intellectual history conference held at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Boredom is also a window into important shifts in American intellectual life — not to mention a new research frontier for the sometimes-embattled scholars who study it....

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