Bio: David Armitage (born 1965) is a British historian known for his writings on international and intellectual history. He is chair of the history department and Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History at Harvard University.


Comments: 202 • Responses: 20  • Date: 

youfuckwiththewar133 karma

Do you fuck with the war?

OUPIntLaw148 karma

Can I plead the Fifth?

boithatsprettygood106 karma

What is your favorite historic event/topic to teach about?

Also, are you aware of the subreddit /r/askhistorians? I feel like they'd love to see you on there.

OUPIntLaw86 karma

Not aware of that subreddit--thanks for the headsup.

I love teaching historical ideas and arguments, but also moving into new areas: from the Atlantic world to the Pacific, from politics to international relations, from literature to law ... always something new.

armadillosiguess70 karma

Prof. Armitage, great to see you here! Any life advice for a recent undergrad graduate of your department?

OUPIntLaw113 karma

Follow your nose--and your passions; remember that everything has a history and that you, as a young historian, are the future! Good luck in all your endeavours.

suaveitguy33 karma

Has Publish or Perish had a net benefit on History?

OUPIntLaw64 karma

Historians shouldn't hide their lights under bushels--we should be in dialogue, with scholars and publics, but not at the expense of quality. Net gain? Probably. With dangers? For sure.

JoZoWo31 karma

The UN Charter enshrines a number of norms which seem to contribute to the number and duration of civil wars (right to self-determination, norm of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other states). Do you think that is simply a reflection of how the world wishes to deal with civil conflicts or has it exacerbated these situations?

OUPIntLaw31 karma

Great example of unintended consequences there (e.g. self-determination now clashes with norm against secession). The Charter itself may not have prolonged/exacerbated civil conflicts but there's much good work now showing that norm entrepreneurship by rebels and other civil warriors has.

suaveitguy28 karma

What has been the impact of Big History? Has it had an impact you would have anticipated, or led to any discoveries?

OUPIntLaw33 karma

Big History has taken hold more as a teaching field than an area of research but the version I've promoted has sharpened debate on the role of historians, the importance of the past and the need for multiple, wider perspectives--all net positives, I'd say.

suaveitguy17 karma

What is the appropriate way to use newspapers as sources?

OUPIntLaw41 karma

Depends on the place and period, but it's always important (esp. with digitised newspapers) to read beyond a specific article--what's next to it, what's around it, are all meaningful evidence, and always look out for republication of pieces in papers around the world

chaize_R14 karma

Hey Professor Armitage, thank you for doing this!

How long, do you think, it takes for schools to consider present day events as history? (In the sense of when they will appear in educational history textbooks.)

OUPIntLaw18 karma

Academic trickledown used to take a generation--scholars write their books, textbooks writers digest them, teachers relay the results via the texts. It seems to be happening more quickly now--even history is speeding up in our age of acceleration!

Forevermusing13 karma

Hey David! Thanks for doing this!

In terms of geopolitical interactions between nations, do you notice any patterns that seem to be repeating? Do you feel that noticing international patterns throughout history truly helps identify or better prepare for future interactions between nations?

OUPIntLaw46 karma

As Mark Twain is alleged to have said, history doesn't repeat; it rhymes--being sensitive to themes and variations from the past can clarify options for the future. As my late, great colleague Ernest May used to say, the future has nowhere else to come from but the past.

cannabis1278 karma

Hey, what do you think about Trump and his actions so far?

OUPIntLaw53 karma

Incompetence trumping malevolence ... so far.

boyohboyoboy7 karma

What is a typical day like for you? How do you keep abreast of your reading while continuing to teach, do your other work, and write?

OUPIntLaw14 karma

A chaotic attempt to juggle life, teaching, research and other responsibilities, amid piles of books, waves of PDFs and the waterfall of social media. And I get lots of reading done on trains and planes!

emmasarah886 karma

Hi Professor Armitage - great to have you here! What inspired you to pursue a career in historical research?

OUPIntLaw24 karma

A great teacher, to begin with, and a sheer inability not to think historically about problems. I trained initially in literature but soon found my way back--the rest is History!

boyohboyoboy5 karma

What do you think of Empires of the Atlantic World by John Elliott?

OUPIntLaw8 karma

Magisterial--one of the great works of comparative history, even by showing its limitations as well as its promise.

happy_waldo4 karma

What is your favorite era of British History to teach on/study and, if possible, could you briefly tell me your favorite story from that era?

OUPIntLaw22 karma

I haven't taught British history specifically for a while but my centre of gravity was always the 18th century and the overlap between making the British state and the development of the British Empire: essential foundations for understanding the UK's present discontents.

Zendainc3 karma

What is your favourite historical fact/trivia ?

OUPIntLaw23 karma

Hedy Lamarr inventing what became wifi technology--we wouldn't be having this conversation without her. (Sub-trivia--like the author of The Law of Nations in Global History, C. H. Alexandrowicz, she was born in Lviv/Lwow/Lemberg.)

liarandathief3 karma

What are your thoughts on Marmite?

OUPIntLaw18 karma

Not a fan. (Just lost the vegetable byproduct crowd ...)

gabbyvice3 karma

How did you get involved in the editorial process of 'The Law of Nations and Global History'? How does that process differ from one of your own works such as 'Civil Wars'?

OUPIntLaw4 karma

Curiosity, shared with my co-editor Jennifer Pitts, about who Charles Alexandrowicz was and how he could have been so far ahead of his time, in so many areas of international legal scholarship and history. More than e.g. Civil Wars, it was a great detective story, tracking clues about his life and work across the world and bringing his life and work back into focus.

JoZoWo2 karma

What are your international law values?

OUPIntLaw11 karma

C. H. Alexandrowicz said it best: "We may be able to learn from the past what the present is unable to teach us."

suaveitguy2 karma

I studied History about 10 years ago, and the popularity of Post-Modernism was starting to fade a bit. It had seemed to win over a lot of people with its one trick pony. Is it still a major influence in History?

OUPIntLaw20 karma

Not a major influence, but we all learned lessons from it (assuming Postmodernism was a single thing -- doubtful) about the slipperiness of language, the mulitiplicity of perspectives, social construction, etc. -- another net gain, even if the high tide has now receded

Moleman692 karma

Hi Professor Armitage, thanks for doing this AMA. I'm a Political Science post-graduate student at University College, London and have a few questions for you!

What made you want to pursue a career in academia? Did you ever consider another path?

How have your experiences in the US at Harvard/Princeton/Columbia compared to your time in the UK at Cambridge/Oxford/Edinburgh etc.? Has there been a notable difference in the way the faculties run or in the students?

What advice would you give to someone considering pursuing a PolSci/IR PhD at Cambridge or Harvard?

OUPIntLaw10 karma

I always wanted to be a lawyer but got derailed by surprisingly good exam results! I've been lucky to work on both sides of the Pond and would recommend that if you can--there's greater flexibility in the US, but if you're choosing between Cambridge and Harvard, you're in the best position--very tough to decide: good luck!