The Ancient Historian

Ancient history, mountaineering, cycling and other outside adventures

Re-thinking how we train Ancient History graduate students

There was a panel at the most recent APA meeting in Philadelphia, January 2008, that addressed some of the issues historians face in training the next generation.

The following people presented papers

Michele Renee Salzman. University of California at Riverside
Charles Hedrick, University of California at Santa Cruz
Richard Talbert, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Elizabeth Pollard, California State University, San Diego
David Potter, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
Jonathan Edmondson, York University
Walter Scheidel, Stanford University
Commentator, Kurt Raaflub, Brown University.

There was the usual naval gazing, but there were also some useful suggestions that came out of the session. Many important periods and regions, Hellenistic history, the ancient near east, Egypt, to name just a few, were ignored. The “crisis” that is sometimes felt in Ancient History (by that, it is usually meant to refer to Greek and Roman history; historians of the Ancient Near East and Egypt, for example, are usually trained with near eastern language departments, and there the problems of doing history are far different) usually derives from the feeling of being irrelevant within the academy or in today’s world generally. This, I believe, does require some serious thought, especially when it comes to attracting bright undergraduates to the discipline. Walter Scheidel was quite right to point out that there is a tremendous variety of topics and approaches to these topics that exist within “Ancient History.” That variety requires a variety of responses that no one program can fulfill. Kurt Raaflaab’s summary makes fur suggestions: (1) foundation building before graduate school; (2) training ancient historians to be classicists and historians; (3) pooling resources nation- and continent-wide to offer additional training through intensive summer-seminars; and (4) networking to increase resources, knowledge, and connections.

All four of these, of course, are already happening. Like mountaineering or cycling that I also write about in this space, it is the case that good Ancient Historians make themselves. No amount of formal training is, theoretically, enough. It is really up to students to find their own way through problems and solutions. And it is up to the professors to attract really bright students and offer them the support that is required.

The papers (most of them) can be found  here.


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