Date of this Version
Nearly all readers who have persisted to this point in our roundtable discussion understand the depth of commitment required to write serious book-length history and recognize that most of us are nonetheless likely to reach very small audiences. Such disjuncture between effort and result suggests something about historians— doggedness, perhaps, or other less positive qualities that many of those with whom we live might offer up in an honest moment (mulishness, obsessiveness, irrelevance). Indeed, we seem to be almost the last scholarly discipline that writes mostly books. But this disjuncture also helps explain the scale of my gratitude for receiving such careful readings and critiques of my book from four serious scholars whose work I admire. I thank them each for their time, their generosity, and their insights.
The reviewers use phrases such as “does an extraordinary service” (Christopher Jespersen), “does offer a broad, and quite satisfying, interpretive framework” (Rebecca de Schweinitz), “has made a significant contribution” using “an enormous number of sources” (Scott Kaufman), and offers “an ambitious project . . . that he substantially achieves” (Daniel Sargent). I am tempted to fold my cards, collect my earnings, tip my hat, and head for home. No such luck, reader: the reviewers, as expected, also offer criticisms and suggestions, and these deserve to be engaged. So let me sharpen up my knives and see if I can carve into this particular feast of history and ideas in a useful manner.