Robert Byrd and the AHA
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Ben Keen - 1/14/2004
I grew up in WV. That's what these projects are called... Nobody there even really takes them all that seriously.
Timothy Burke - 1/10/2004
Truthfully, I'd rather the award didn't exist, though once again my membership to the AHA has lapsed through inattentiveness on my part, so I suppose I should re-up before I blather too much about what the AHA should or shouldn't do. It just strikes me that it's always going to involve some unseemly ass-kissing and "you gave us stuff or might give us stuff, so we'll give you some rubber chicken and a medal", unless the award is very much about recognizing the otherwise unrecognized, say, the everyday work of public history. I'd rather some local official who has made a labor of love out of preserving a battlefield or some such get recognition of this kind than a member of Congress. But even if it's going to be the big guns, I'd rather it weren't quite so obvious an example of feeding at the trough. Demoscerosis strikes again.
Ralph E. Luker - 1/10/2004
Tim, I agree with you that a belated acknowledgement of Daniel Patrick Moynihan would have been a worthy gesture. But candor obliges us to admit that this is, as the little fellow in Fantasy Island would put it, about da pork, da pork. In a larger sense, it is right pitiful that historians are bought so cheaply. $100 million, I think it was. I might be corrected on that figure. But it is nothing in the current budgetary visions. Just as we were being assured that the Bush administration intends to pay attention to its imbalances, it discovers the need to place people on the moon and Mars. No one is giving hard estimates of the cost, but I hear $1 trillion. At this rate, it will be possible to bankrupt the American republic and it and its history profession will have gotten so little in return for their bankruptcy!
Timothy Burke - 1/10/2004
I see, digging through the relevant issue of Perspectives, that this is largely about Byrd's sense of the history of the Senate, which he's spoken about on the Senate floor and published about (and also has written about the senate in Roman republican tradition), and about a particular bit of largesse directed at the teaching of American history. So it's not a complete fiction, but it still strikes me that this doesn't outweigh Byrd's negatives. If the AHA is going to do this sort of thing, the logic of it ought to be pretty airtight.
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