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Narrowing Research Interests


TylerJames

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Hi All, 

 

I just finished up my first semester of a Master's program and I'm finding there are a lot of profs who are trying to talk me out of what I originally wanted to pursue. I am interested in the history of globalization, which basically means late 1960s-1990s with a heavy focus on the United States and Russia. 

 

I've been advised that this is a huge dead end in the market as late 20th century is generally not taken seriously anyway, and an international/comparative approach makes it even worse. 

 

I'm also very interested in medieval history, so I find myself at a crossroads on which path I should take. I am interested to hear opinions on which path would be more viable in the profession. Any advice would be most welcome.  :)

Edited by TylerJames
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I think late 20th century doesn't hurt you "legitmacy" and have never heard that before.  I would also say with the popularity of transnational history, that your work looks beyond just the U.S. would only help you.

 

That being said, late 20th century in general and post-war U.S. even more so is most competive, toughest job market, because so many people work in the field.

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Well, if you are interested in Medieval History, do you have the languages you need for the field? Depending on area and subject, you might need Latin, French, German... if you don't already have those languages done as you finish your MA, I am not sure it's a good idea to go in that direction. It's a lot of languages to learn.

The difference in fields raises another question though. What are your interests? Because if you're interested in, say, transnational processes, you don't have to study those in the US context, or in the 20th century context.. you could study them in a lot of different contexts, right? Even medieval. Or you could be a, say, Russian historian but look at transnational processes with the US. Try to define what KIND of history you'd want to write, then think of places that lend themselves to writing it.

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I am interested in the history of globalization, which basically means late 1960s-1990s with a heavy focus on the United States and Russia. 

 

I've been advised that this is a huge dead end in the market as late 20th century is generally not taken seriously anyway, and an international/comparative approach makes it even worse. 

 

 

I think late 20th century doesn't hurt you "legitmacy" and have never heard that before.  I would also say with the popularity of transnational history, that your work looks beyond just the U.S. would only help you.

 

That being said, late 20th century in general and post-war U.S. even more so is most competive, toughest job market, because so many people work in the field.

 

@Riotbeard Reading between the lines, I think the professors are raising concerns over [a] the practice of contemporary history (i.e. events that occurred within the last fifty years) and comparative history.  IME, [a] has always been a controversial time frame in which many historians have wondered if it qualifies as history at all. Meanwhile, is, IIRC, a field that is in rapid decline for methodological and theoretical reasons.

 

However, as you point out, post World War Two American history and international history have many practitioners.

 

@TylerJames Have you attempted to take apart your interests (globalization, contemporary history, the U.S. and the USSR/Russia) so you can figure out what it is you like best about the combination and then focus upon that single element?

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@Riotbeard Reading between the lines, I think the professors are raising concerns over [a] the practice of contemporary history (i.e. events that occurred within the last fifty years) and comparative history.  IME, [a] has always been a controversial time frame in which many historians have wondered if it qualifies as history at all. Meanwhile, is, IIRC, a field that is in rapid decline for methodological and theoretical reasons.

 

However, as you point out, post World War Two American history and international history have many practitioners.

 

@TylerJames Have you attempted to take apart your interests (globalization, contemporary history, the U.S. and the USSR/Russia) so you can figure out what it is you like best about the combination and then focus upon that single element?

 

I agree that comparative is going out of fashion, but all you need to do is tweak your methodology more towards a transnational approach.  I suppose some people have traditionally had issues with contemporary history, but haven't heard any recent major historians critiqueing.  Then again I do 19th C., so maybe I am not paying attenion to late 20th century historiographical issues so much.

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