James Banner Jr.

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I have had a varied career--first as a history faculty member at Princeton, then as an association executive, book publisher, and foundation officer. That is, I've been part of the history community from inside and outside the academy and have observed its members' practices and aspirations from many perspectives. Originally a specialist in the history of the United States between roughly 1765 and 1865--a specialty that I've maintained--I've taught European as well as American history and have roamed widely in American and other histories in the conviction that only in that way can I understand my own country and its past. Since the late 1990s, I've turned my attention to teaching and learning generally (with two books, co-authored with the late Harold C. Cannon, The Elements of Teaching and The Elements of Learning) and to the recent history of the discipline of history (in a set of essay-length memoirs; co-commissioned and co-edited with the late John R. Gillis Becoming Historians); wrote Being a Historian, an assessment of the state of the discipline today and an implicit criticism of our mis- and under-preparation of historians; and most recently wrote The Ever-Changing Past: Why All History Is Revisionist History.  Along the way, I had to interrupt work in 2018 to up-date a 1974 report that I and others, under Vann Woodward's general editorship, wrote at John Doar's request for the Impeachment Inquiry of the House Judiciary Committee on presidential responses to charges of misconduct against themselves or senior members of their administrations.  The updated version, appearing in 2019 under the title Presidential Misconduct, seemed warranted in the middle of the Trump administration.  Currently (2023) I am writing a book about historians--who they are, what they do, why they do it--as well as trying to stimulate the writing of the histories of college and university department in all disciplines and to gain a stage production of an epistolary play drawn from the extraordinary correspondence between John and Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson.