"How I wish Doing Recent History had been available when I began writing histories that were 'just over my shoulder.' Potter and Romano demonstrate that tackling recent history poses unique challenges, and they offer absolutely indispensable guidance in meeting them."
—Alice Echols, author of Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture
"This book hits all the marks. The writing is lively and well paced; the research and historiography are first-rate; there is a nice mixture of known, established authors and rising young scholars; and the questions taken up are directly relevant to what many of us do every day, both in our classrooms and in our scholarship. It's timely, smart, wide ranging, and thought provoking."
"This collection of thoughtful and thought-provoking essays addresses the various pluses and minuses of doing 'recent' history."
—K.B. Nutter, Choice
"Even if you are not a historian, any information professional will learn something from this book, as it covers a large range of topics including those discussed above as well as the commoditization of information, the effect interviewers have upon the oral histories they collect, and much more. This book is highly recommended to all historians, archivists, and librarians."
"[A]ny historian who reads [Doing Recent History] stands to gain something. . . . Potter and Romano open up the possibility that an all-encompassing methodology is no longer an option for historians. This collection encourages scholars to discard, once and for all, the notion that any history is absolute or completely objective and to recognize the interplay of subjectivity and intersubjectivity involved in doing recent history. This book may help historians accept that studies of recent events are valuable as primary documents in and of themselves."
—Molly Rosner, Oral History Review
"While the essays address methods of doing histories of the recent past, the lessons presented are ones we can all stand to relearn. I would recommend this book to my colleagues doing recent history, as well as to new graduate students and undergraduates who are being asked to conduct recent history research."
—Chad H. Parker, Louisiana History
"Doing Recent History is an important volume that will be usefully assigned in graduate seminars, particularly for students shaping original research projects on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries."
—Alex Sayf Cummings, Journal of American Culture
Recent history—the very phrase seems like an oxymoron. Yet historians have been writing accounts of the recent past since printed history acquired a modern audience, and in the last several years interest in recent topics has grown exponentially. With subjects as diverse as Walmart and disco, and personalities as disparate as Chavez and Schlafly, books about the history of our own time have become arguably the most exciting and talked-about part of the discipline.
Despite this rich tradition and growing popularity, historians have engaged in little discussion about the specific methodological, political, and ethical issues related to writing about the recent past. The twelve essays in this collection explore the challenges of writing histories of recent events where visibility is inherently imperfect, hindsight and perspective are lacking, and historiography is underdeveloped.
Those who write about events that have taken place since 1970 encounter exciting challenges that are both familiar and foreign to scholars of a more distant past, including suspicions that their research is not historical enough, negotiation with living witnesses who have a very strong stake in their own representation, and the task of working with new electronic sources. Contributors to this collection consider a wide range of these challenges. They question how sources like television and video games can be better utilized in historical research, explore the role and regulation of doing oral histories, consider the ethics of writing about living subjects, discuss how historians can best navigate questions of privacy and copyright law, and imagine the possibilities that new technologies offer for creating transnational and translingual research opportunities. Doing Recent History offers guidance and insight to any researcher considering tackling the not-so-distant past.
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