When at my advanced age one turns nostalgic it is time to beware. “Never look back” is an appropriate motto for the aged. It is an utterly inappropriate slogan for the historian. In any case, I’m about to look back at aspects of the profession of historian as I have observed it for over three quarters of a century.
This little essay is targeted at students thinking about finally entering a doctoral program in history, at those already deeply involved in one, and the smaller number who are polishing up the very last draft of their dissertation. I am not interested, here, in suggesting changes in the Fields that are currently in use all over the American graduate landscape. Nor am I concerned with reform of The System. One reason is I have no idea what the Fields and Graduation Requirements actually are from place to place, although it would indeed be an interesting detour to ascertain, count, generalize, and recommend changes in the history doctorate coast to coast, public and private, small to large.