Lessons from the Past or How to Succeed in the University World Without Really Trying

To every historian there comes, soon or late, the strong desire to desert the exact documentation and cautious phraseology that his craft and the zealous eyes of his colleagues oblige him to use. The occasional urge to soar above the footnotes and address a larger audience must come to us all. Moreover, a certain catharsis is obtained by ceasing to be solemn about history and discharging the collection of irrelevant anecdotes, random thoughts, and unsuitable stories that pile up in the course of research. However, this desirable end implies a requirement to be amusing, difficult indeed for the historian who is apt to be too serious about the human antics his work turns up. This, then, is a hazardous enterprise, but I persevere buoyed up by the thought that the catharsis will benefit the historian, at least, if not the reader.

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