Five Ways to Annoy a Historian

by Abigail Pfeiffer on July 22, 2015

Being a historian is awesome. As a history professor, I get to spend my days writing about history, talking about history, and educating others about history. It’s a pretty sweet gig most of the time. But like anything in life that rocks, there can also be an annoying side.  Below are the top five ways to annoy this historian.

People constantly trying to stump you. How many times has this happened to you? Someone asks you “What do you do?” to which you respond with “I’m a historian.” Most people take this opportunity to tell you how much they hate or love history and then the conversation ends and life resumes as normal. But others (the people I loathe with the fire of a 1000 suns) feel this is a great time to try and stump you. They then precede to ask you the most obscure historical question (that they surely don’t know the answer to themselves) all with that stupid smug look on their face.

Intense sadness at the knowledge that you will never be able to read all the books. You know that pile of books in your office that has been collecting dust for the last several months? Or that giant wish list on Amazon filled with books? Yeah, you’re never going to read all of them. There are simply too many books and not enough time in your life to tackle them all.  Accept it, grieve for all the books you can’t read, and move on.

Meeting other historians and they have to out “historian” you. Have you ever met another historian, perhaps one with the same specialty, and they have a burning desire to show you they know more about history than you? I have had a few run-ins with this special type of historian. I always assume that they didn’t receive enough love or attention from their parents, or from their graduate school professors.

Kindle vs. Print. How many of us know that person that looks down their nose at you and your Kindle while they self-righteously proclaim that they would never own a Kindle and only reads print books? On one hand I agree. I love the smell of a book, especially old books. I love licking my finger and turning the page. Kindle books just don’t compare. But I do have a Kindle and I really enjoy it. I think of myself as an equal opportunity reader.  I keep it in my purse and then if I’m ever waiting in line at the grocery store or the DMV, then I always have something to read (note: never, ever go to the DMV without a book. Might as well make that time count!) The challenging part is choosing which books I want in print and which ones to buy on my Kindle. Some books I want to add to my physical book collection (anything about TR is automatically bought in print!) but the lower price tag of the kindle version speaks to me….

What are you going to do with a history degree? Now I’m sure this has happened to every single historian. When I went to graduate school and people would ask me what I was studying, I would reply “military history.” Then they would look at me quizzically and say “What are you going to do with that? Why don’t you get a business degree?” Sorry, but I’m not going to spend my time and money on a graduate program that I’m not 100% passionate about. The world NEEDS historians and we should encourage young history students instead of crapping all over their dreams and pushing them into fields they aren’t passionate about. I’m ok not being a millionaire businesswoman…I love history and get to spend all my days immersed in it. That’s priceless in my opinion.

So, do you agree with any of these? Add your own in the comments!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Bea July 31, 2015 at 3:48 pm

Yes! I am not a fan of the Kindle…lol..but I bring a book to all my appointments. I greatly and with much passion encourage historians! I just hope that in the near future they have not given over to the theory of history is wrong because of some alien circles on a cave somewhere and totally rewritten. I am so in hopes that our history, while not all is something to be proud of, is kept and our future generations learn about it. Right now they have classes here in North Carolina in grade school about bad police who kill blacks and how immigrants are thrown out. Wake County, North Carolina to be factual. What a shame. This is not what a history course should have a book on. Good luck and I admire your choice to study what you were passionate about. That is why I chose nursing and then culinary after retirement.

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