Wednesday, February 8, 2012

History Department Call for Award Nominations

Every year the history department awards scholarships to our graduate and undergraduate students. The awards are funded by generous contributions from alumni and former faculty. In the past, we've asked faculty for nominations. This year we are opening the process to self-nomination. If you are a history major at the undergraduate or graduate level at MTSU, you might be eligible for one of these awards. Undergraduate majors, click here to learn more. Graduate students, click here. Or, use the navigation bar in the column to the right.

Unfortunately, our only award for which graduating seniors are eligible is the Tennessee Historical Commission's Certificate of Merit. We are working on adding to that list!

Best wishes to all who apply.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Spring Semester Welcome

Typically, the start of spring semester doesn't feel quite as crazy as the start of fall semester. But with four searches ongoing, we are all scrambling. By the end of the semester, we will have a new Africanist, a new Europeanist, and new public historian, and a new chair.

In the meantime, we are also keeping busy with lots of other activities. History Day is coming up on Friday Feburary 24. If you'd like to volunteer, contact Dr. Becky McIntyre.  And, of course, February is also African American History Month.

In March, MTSU will host Phi Alpha Theta's annual conference March 23-24. Paper proposals are due February 15, 2012, and you can download the CFP here: Phi Alpha Theta Call for Papers. Or you can contact Dr. Amy Sayward for more info.

Strickland Visiting Scholar, Marla Miller will be here March 26-28 to talk about her research on U.S. women's history, which is appropriate since March is also Women's History Month!

Maybe we will be able to catch a collective breath in April...

Remember there is always an open invitation to guest blog. Contact me, Susan Myers-Shirk, if you are interested.

Wishing everyone a productive and rewarding semester,

Remember to follow MTSU History on Facebook and Twitter for updates on department events.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Strickland Scholar Arrives Next Week

Dr. Donald B. Redford
Each year, because of the generosity of Lucy Strickland and her family, the MTSU History department is able to host a visiting distinguished lecturer. Ms. Strickland established the program to honor her husband, Roscoe L. Strickland, Jr., a former MTSU history professor. Ms. Strickland passed away in 2008, but her legacy continues. This year's lecturer is internationally recognized Egyptologist, Donald B. Redford. Dr. Redford will be lecturing in history classes beginning next Wednesday after fall break and will give a public lecture on Thursday, October 20 at 7:00 p.m. in the State Farm Room. The lecture is titled  “Mendes:  City of the Ram and Fish, Microcosm of Ancient Egypt.”  Spread the word!

Friday, September 2, 2011


Welcome to all our new students and new faculty. And welcome back to our returning students and faculty. We are looking forward to a busy and intellectually challenging year.

The department has had some changes over the summer. After four years of dedicated service to the department Dr. Sayward has stepped down as chair and Dr. Robert Hunt has agreed to serve as interim chair for the academic year, 2011-2012. Dr. Kristine McCusker has taken on the job of undergraduate director. Dr. Ed Beemon steps in as director of general studies and Dr. Pippa Holloway returns as graduate director. Thanks to all of them for making life in the history department easier!

As always, we are looking for folks willing to blog about life in the history department, so if you are in the history department (undergraduate, graduate, alumni, or faculty) and have something you'd like to say, stop by the department or post a comment here and we'll welcome you as a guest blogger. Many thanks to graduate student, Matt Bailey, for managing the department blog in spring 2011.

Along with the rest of MTSU, we'll be celebrating the centennial this year, so check back for updates and new postings about the history of MTSU and the history of the department.

Friday, March 25, 2011


I recently finished Thomas Sowell's book, Intellectuals and Society.  Sowell is arguably the most influential living intellectual behind modern conservative thought (the ghost of Milton Friedman does not count as living).  Punditry on the right is often just the garbled form of Sowell's arguments.  Sadly, his arguments are engaged and critiqued far too infrequently.  So, I'm going to roughly summarize one argument from his book that impacts historians.

In Intellectuals and Society, historians are one of many groups he places in the "intellectual" category.  He argues that there is often an inverse relationship between intellectuals with specialized knowledge within their field and intellectuals with broader knowledge outside of their field.  The fact that many intellectuals step out of their specialty is one part of the problem.

Sowell argues that knowledge is very disperse.  He proceeds as follows.  Intellectuals have more knowledge than the average person but the congregate knowledge of all the average people is significantly greater than the knowledge of intellectuals.  However, because intellectuals are more intelligent than the average person, there is a tendency to overestimate their own intellectual superiority.  This is magnified when they step out of their field of specialization, making pronouncements that are backed by prestige gained in another field.

Additionally, Sowell argues that some fields are significantly more self correcting than others because they have a greater degree of external validation.  For medical doctors, the health and/or sickness of patients is the source.  Engineers have to make sure the buildings stand and the bridges do not fall.  However, other professions substitute external validation for internal validation.  Sowell argues that when the worth of one's work is only judged by his or her peers, false premises are not corrected as fast.  That immense ability is often more dangerous because it can take valid arguments built on false premises further than lesser ability.

Furthermore, Sowell argues that many professions are flawed in the method in which people are judged to have obtained mastery.  Specifically, he notes that in the medical profession, one can simply learn and master the body of knowledge and techniques in order to be considered a doctor.  However, in professions that require PhDs, a simple mastery of the profession is not enough.  One must increase the body of knowledge both to receive the terminal degree and to eventually gain tenure.  He writes that in conjunction with a self validating profession, this is exceptionally dangerous.  These problems corrupt the search for "truth" in a way that other professions could not afford.

So, I'm curious to see what you all think?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Video Interview with Layton Carr

Here is a recent interview with MTSU graduate student Layton Carr at Marina's in downtown Murfreesboro.

p.s. Does anyone have advice on how to make the Flip Camera's less blurry?