The New Historical Scholarship

For a long time now, it has been said that historians do not value genealogy, choosing instead to focus on the “big picture” while considering the lives of everyday people unimportant to their studies at hand. Ever since returning to school (and, in fact, since I heard Dr. James Madison speak at the 2005 Midwestern Roots conference), I have not believed that to be the case. All of my history professors have had positive reactions to my being a genealogist. In fact, I am now a student assistant for one of my professors because of my experience as a genealogist.

Last night in my reading for one of my classes, I found the following quote about the new historical scholarship. From the essay “The Changing Face of Reformation History” by Andrew Pettegree in The Reformation World (Andrew Pettegree, ed. New York: Routledge, 2000):

It is perhaps here that the new trends in historical scholarship have impacted most profoundly (and not simply in the field of Reformation studies). It is now accepted that it is possible to write the history of ordinary people; indeed, no presentation of the past is real without such an attempt.

Some historians may not see the value of tracing a lineage, but they have recognized that the study of ordinary people — which is what we as genealogists/family historians do — is vital to historical scholarship.

Posted: September 29, 2008.

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  • That’s interesting Amy. There is a “flip side” to this as well. I was never really all that interested in history until I started doing genealogy and researching my family history. The more I learned of my family’s history, the more I learn about history in general. It’s nice to know that academia (or at least part of it) is recognizing the impact that “ordinary” people have in regards to historic events.