Liberal Arts Panel

Harvard University

We "see" history through the eyes of those who study and write about it. In this free, online OpenCourseWare offering by the Harvard University Liberal Arts panel, Professor Donald Ostrowski introduces a group of esteemed historians gathered to examine the writing of history today. Following the introduction, in the fifth of eight mini-lectures, Professor John Stilgoe discusses history as written for the mainstream. Through a series of anecdotes emphasizing the importance of the "visual", he illustrates what can be learned by paying attention to such seemingly unimportant details as serial numbers on row boats, the color of antique lantern glass and the particulars of old railroad maps, among others.

Course Lectures
  • Sue Weaver Schopf introduces the topic of why students continue to pursue studies in the liberal arts fields in a technological world. Schopf is the associate dean of University Extension and director of the Master of Liberal Arts Program. Part 1 of 8.

  • Donald Ostrowski comments on the esteemed panel of historians gathered to discuss the implications of writing history today. Ostrowski is a research advisor in the social sciences for the Master of Liberal Arts Program at Harvard Extension School. Part 2 of 8.

  • Professor John R. McNeill discusses the implications of writing about the relationship between humankind and the environment upon which we depend. McNeill is an environmental and world historian, and University Professor at Georgetown. Part 3 of 8.

  • Megan Marshall believes it is the duty of the researcher to go and find what is actually out there beyond the Internet waiting to be discovered. Marshall is an award-winning American biographer and author. Part 4 of 8.

  • Professor John Stilgoe reflects on how more Americans would be interested in history if the scope was more mainstream and shares anecdotes from across the United States. Stilgoe is the Robert and Lois Orchard Professor in the History of Landscape, Department of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University. Part 5 of 8.

  • Professor Nancy Kollmann discusses the challenges posed by writing history and her thoughts for the future. Kollman is the William H. Bonsall Professor of History at Stanford University and a Guggenheim Fellow. Part 6 of 8.

  • Professor David Hackett Fischer reflects on the eclectic nature of historians and how this diversity is one of the discipline's greatest strengths. Fischer is the Earl Warren Professor of History at Brandeis. Part 7 of 8.

  • The panelists further explore and debate the issues of writing history today and discuss some of the themes from their individual presentations. Part 8 of 8.