Our new colleague at Hertfordshire, Adam Crymble, has recently written an ‘essay on the backlash against the digital humanities movement’ – a reflection on ‘living in the age of digital hubris’ over the past decade. Crymble calls for a dose of ‘digital humility’ from his fellow ‘DHers’; digital history has been well-funded at a time when research budgets are being slashed elsewhere – so perhaps the recent backlash is the result of ‘an establishment that’s decided those DH people get enough already.’
Public history hasn’t been on the receiving end of million-pound projects (although streams such as Connected Communities are starting to shape work in the field) but Crymble’s comments about the tensions between new fields and the academic establishment resonate. Public historians, particularly those who have come ‘alternative’ routes into academe, might well emphathise with his experience:
DH is inherently interdisciplinary. My “core” discipline is history… But if I had to convince a group of anonymous historians that my work was worthy, I seemed destined for the “no” pile.
Times are tough. I can accept that there are other great candidates out there who may have been better for the job, or more worthy of the scholarship. But it’s not just me. Most of my colleagues in Britain were self-funded during their Ph.D.s, or supported their studies as part-time developers and project managers. I know of none with the golden-ticket scholarships that have long been a measure of the top students in the humanities.
There’s definitely some common cause to be made between public and digital historians in building bridges with other domains of academic history. But a bit of humility on all sides is probably needed, as part of seeking greater integration of the discipline, something Justin Champion and I wrote about in unashamedly advocatory terms. As Crymble says, we’re all on the same team…