Whither the History (?) Channel

Is a channel that spends more time on gangs, monsters, and prophecies really about history? Eric Wittenberg weighed in on the subject last year, and teacher Betsy Newmark is the latest to take aim with a hilarious but (but oh-so-true) graphic.

It’s basically info that would appeal to a toddler boy playing with his toy trucks.

More similar graphics at GraphJam.com.

On a related note, is there a place for popular history? I’ve heard some pretty harsh things said about some of the Civil War presentations on television, many of them deserved. Eric Wittenberg recently posted some comments by Dana Shoaf, the editor of America’s Civil War and Civil War Times on that score:

“The problem with academic historians is they are not reaching a wide popular audience,” Shoaf said.

He said there is a need for factual, well-researched historical articles that are moderately priced and appeal to the masses.

Shoaf said that in his business, people often are reluctant to read social history because they think it is boring. They want articles about battles, but Shoaf said they like social history if they aren’t aware that’s what they are reading.

I agree (and have written several articles for Shoaf, with another one in the works). Too many academic works these days are virtually unreadable, so it’s no wonder that people ignore them. History can be interesting, but it takes a deft hand to make it so. One of the best I’ve read lately is Robert Remini’s The Battle of New Orleans. It’s short—you can read it in an afternoon—but the author does an excellent job of integrating the strategic and tactical picture, the feel of the times, and personalities involved. After reading it you have a real feel for why the battle developed as it did, the constraints faced by the British, and what a good general and diplomat Andy Jackson was. Would that they could all be written like that!

UPDATE: J. D. Petruzzi slams a Military Channel program on Gettysburg.


One response to “Whither the History (?) Channel”

  1. Steve R. Avatar

    Quite true. The History Channel has gone down hill. They seem to be going downhill just like the SciFi channel. Very disappointing.

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