Cameron Blevins has a really interesting post at his blog about the nature of the reading list for his Ph.D exams in American history at Stanford.
Blevins analyzed the list of 27 books that Stanford’s American history graduate students read as part of their “core” training in the discipline. Here is what he concluded:
- Most of the books were published after 2000, with nothing published before 1987.
- The books are almost evenly divided between male and female authors
- The 27 authors received their Ph.Ds from only ten different schools–Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, Helsinki, Leeds, Michigan, and Yale.
- 11 of the authors received their Ph.Ds from Yale
- Of the 8 American schools, all of them are listed in the US News and World Report list of top ten graduate programs in history
The over-representation of elite schools highlights the stratified nature of graduate training in the American historical profession. I don’t mean to draw broad conclusions from an obviously limited and biased sample, which only reflects the decisions of three Stanford professors as to what they think are the most important recent books in the field. Yet the authors of these books were overwhelmingly trained at prestigious, “top-tier” programs. Does this mean that the products of Harvard and Yale’s programs are the only historians who received the quality training needed to write ground-breaking scholarship? Absolutely not. But the above reading list does imply that where a historian received their graduate education seems to have an outsized ripple effect on the reception and impact of their scholarship.
Tim Lacy says
Thanks for the pointer! I'm going to look at this more closely. – TL