To What Extent Is There Conflict Between Academic and Popular History?

Topics: History, Academia, Historiography Pages: 3 (1021 words) Published: June 19, 2013
Throughout time, there will continue to be a considerable divorce between academic and popular historians. As Margaret Conrad argues, popular historians have established the tension, by recreating “historical films without the involvement of trained historians”. This underscores the troubling gulf that sometimes separates public academics approaches to the past. Academic historians have been “too long focused” on professionalism, and discarded “generating” a “dialogue” (Conrad) with their contextual audiences. The substantial dissolution between academic and popular historians is evident in a range of sources, essentially from Michelle Arrows to Herodotus and Thucydides to Bury.

Inaccuracies continue to plague populist histories, and as such those within the academic field continue to rebut their rivals with these flaws. They argue that these, as Margaret Conrad states, “producers” of “historical films” intentionally integrate inaccuracies in order to entertain their audience, rather than inform. Contrasting this view, modern historian Michelle Arrows argues that “academic historians ignore TV and their [our] own peril”. This viewpoint conveys the necessity of establishing a balance between academic historians and popular historians to, as Margaret Conrad believes, “generate a dialogue with the public”. Academic historians argue they present history “as it actually was” (enlightened historian Von Ranke). This is substantiated with their argument that they exclusively present history with full accuracy. It is this disagreement that enforces the considerable tension between academic and popular historians.

Tension between academics and popular historians has been evident even during the initial stages of history; between Herodotus and Thucydides. Curthoys and Docker elucidate that Herodotean was “part of the literary world”, whilst Thucydides was based on a “rigorous scrutiny of sources”. It is these two independent categories that fashion the meticulous...
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