Part of my summer this year is two classes on historical research methods and historiography. I love the idea of studying these things, but when you have a stack of close to 70 books you need to read before you graduate it can be hard to read things that aren’t in the stack.
My research methods class is taught by a military historian. So I am reading, among other things, a book called “Major Problems in Military History”. On the one hand, the approach is interesting. They present a half dozen primary source documents showing different perspectives on an event. Then they present several essays by leading scholars about this event and the way it can be interpreted. I think that’s a really cool approach. However I couldn’t care LESS about a pre-rev-war attack on an Indian village in Connecticut. It’s hard to slog through knowing how big my backlog of other stuff is.
On the other hand, one of the papers was to take a specific incident of revisionist history and write a paper on it. The issue was the Nanking Massacre. We were allowed to take whatever angle on the question we wanted, so I actually looked at the ways in which the textbooks in Japan leave openings for the claims made by revisionists. I spent all weekend on it (turning it in nearly a month and a half early) and had a grand time.
I do love history. All history. The reading assignments would be fine if I didn’t feel vaguely like that time should be spent reading all that other material. I suspect that that feeling is yet another form of overachievement.