Margaret Conrad’s 2007 CHA Presidential address seems like a good place to begin a discussion on what is Active History. Feel free to leave your comments.
“In a context in which history is increasingly commodity and spectacle, it becomes necessary for academic historians to generate a dialogue with the public about the uses and abuses of the past. This is not always a pleasant conversation, but it is one of the obligations of scholars in a democratic society who have the privilege of dealing in the coin of knowledge and ideas. As former CHA president Jean-Claude Robert argued persuasively in 2003, it is incumbent upon us as university professors also to be public intellectuals.(ft.37) We have been too long focused on honing our professionalism and too little involved in the wider world where many people have a curiosity about the past and a passion for historical research equivalent to our own. What is unworthy, for example, about being a genealogist, an amateur historian, or what academics sneeringly call an “antiquarian”? Surely, we all work in the same corner of the knowledge vineyard and have a lot to learn from each other. American historian Carl Becker made this point in his much-cited article, “Everyman His Own Historian,” published in 1932,(ft.38) in which he reversed the charge of relevance. Academic historians, he argued, needed to adapt their knowledge to the necessities of the present rather than “cultivate a species of dry professional arrogance growing out of the thin soil of antiquarian research.” Touché.” (Margaret Conrad, Public History and its Discontents or History in the Age of Wikipedia, 11-12)
For the full-text see: http://cha-shc.ca/english/info/Conrad_CHA_Address.pdf