In case you missed it, the Wisconsin Republican Party and University of Wisconsin-Madison historian William Cronon are not getting along. After Cronon wrote a historically-informed op-ed in The New York Times showing how Governor Scott Walker’s assault on collective bargaining has parted ways with the state’s historic progressive tradition, Cronon started a website called “Scholar as Citizen.” In his first post he argued that the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council was behind the Walker administration’s anti-union policies. Now it appears that an employee of the Wisconsin Republican Party has requested access to any Cronon e-mail messages that mention “Walker,” “collective bargaining” or “recall.”
Historians are outraged. But it seems to me that Cronon is no longer engaging this issue from a historical perspective, as he did in the initial op-ed in the Times. He is no longer wearing his historian’s hat. He has replaced it with the hat of an academic activist. This is perfectly fine. Something seems very fishy in this whole investigation. But I am not sure what Cronon is doing is an example of the way historians as historians should engage the public.
AHA Today has provided a one-stop shop for all things Cronon. By the way, Cronon also happens to be the president-elect of the American Historical Society.
Adam Parsons says
Actually, the piece on ALEC posted on the blog predates the NYT op-ed; the open records request followed the ALEC piece, but came before the NYT piece.