Jettison the jargon

August 2, 2002

Graduate students need training in writing for the general public and only radical reform of doctoral programmes will attenuate what David Cannadine calls the "dismal prose or impenetrable jargon" of much history writing today (AACH review, THES , June 28).

I recall there was much scoffing when creative writing (fiction) programmes were introduced on US campuses. Academics at the University of Iowa and others said they would do nothing to improve or increase fiction writing. They did, and the pro-grammes proved very popular.

As head of the Institute of Historical Research, Cannadine could inaugurate training and writing for the public and television/film production and editing for doctoral students.

The impact would be the emergence of historical writing and media works directed at the general public. It would also provide alternative and additional employment for history PhDs beyond the traditional academic placement.

Norman Cantor
Emeritus professor of medieval history
New York University

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