Re: How have you changed the study of American history?

David Kennedy: I think if my work has had any effect on the larger field of American history, it’s been to keep alive a style of political history that went out of fashion shortly after I finished my graduate training. Amongst American historians, there was a very significant, almost tectonic shift of emphasis from political and diplomatic history and the history of American foreign policy and national security policy to social history. And again, this was all swept up in the great era of multiculturalism and the awareness of all the ethnic, and racial, and religious variety of the society. And a lot of subjects entered into the agenda of professional historians that weren’t there before. And justifiably, I think the historical profession as a whole paid a lot of attention to them in the last three decades of the 20th century – African-American history, women’s history, immigrant history, ethnic history, religious history and so on . . . social history broadly construed. And though I do believe I incorporated a lot of that into my own work, my own interests have been at a somewhat different level – the history of policy, the history of high politics, the history of diplomacy, national security policy, the history of institutions. And I hope that if I made a contribution to the larger field is to keep that level of discussion reasonably vibrant, even while many – if not indeed the majority of my colleagues – particularly the generation just behind me – were really turning their attention to other subjects.

Recorded on: 7/4/07

Kennedy talks about injecting new issues into the debate.

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