Doing "Real Work"

Daniel M. Fox, December 2011

Editor's Note: Perspectives on History welcomes letters to the editor on issues discussed in its pages or which are relevant to the profession. Letters should ideally be brief and should be e-mailed (or mailed to Letters to the Editor, Perspectives on History, AHA, 400 A Street SE, Washington, DC 20003-3889) along with full contact information. Letters selected for publication may be edited for style, length, and content. Publication of letters does not signify endorsement by the AHA of the views expressed by the authors, who alone are responsible for ensuring accuracy of the letters' contents. Institutional affiliations are provided only for identification purposes.

To the Editor:

I applaud the article, "A Very Modest Proposal for Graduate Programs in History," by Anthony Grafton and Jim Grossman in the October, 2011 issue of Perspectives. The authors could also have noted that academic historians are frequently dismissive of historians who are not full-time members of departments of history.

Forty-three years ago, I returned to Harvard as a faculty member in history and public administration after working for several years in state and federal government. The late Oscar Handlin told me, "Glad you're back. Now you can do some real work." Two years later I re-entered public service. I also continued to do historical research, and to publish books and articles.

In subsequent years I worked in government, an academic health center, and an endowed foundation. Many academics have invited me to speak with their graduate students and sometimes to mentor them. Only one of these invitations came from a department of history.

—Daniel M. Fox
New York