Lessons of History


You were there. The year was 1979, the year American history went down.

The courses numbered three: two international relations; one, for novices, on central themes. The undergraduates numbered nearly 300.

One by one, the faculty filed out. Barnard Bailyn, Winthrop Professor of History, turned in his fall class to plan his new Core course. David H. Donald, Warren Professor of American History, dropped out to work on a book and the new Afro-Am executive committee. Frank B. Friedel, another Warren Professor, headed for the hinterlands on sabbatical. Thomas Holt, associate professor, is nowhere to be found.

Professor Ernest May, erstwhile chairman of the department, explains, "This happens periodically. You can't protect American history at the expense of medieval."

Maybe he's right. After all, the same thing happened some years ago to modern European students. To correct that situation, Donald Fleming, Trumball Professor of American History, agreed to alternate between American and European intellectual history--as a result, this year he's teaching European.


A few students don't seem willing to leave Harvard's history curriculum entirely up to the whims of the department faculty, however. A group of concentrators in History, History and Literature, and other related concentrations met last week to draft a letter to administrators about the shortage of courses. "I can't believe how irresponsible they are," says Mona Fish '81, a member of the newly formed Student History Caucus.

Although caucus members don't foresee changes in this year's schedule, they say they'll look out for undergraduate interests in plans for next year. "We're here to let them know we've been screwed," says Marc L. Baum '80, one of the founders of SHC.

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