Gordon Wood and Historians' "Cultural Baggage": A Discussion

Discussion on a piece by Michael D. Hattem at The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History entitled, "Where Have You Gone, Gordon Wood?" The piece suggests that scholars' reactions to Gordon Wood can be used as a window into possible generational differences between historians.


  1. The original piece from The Junto (which contains its own set of conversations in the Comments):
  2. The Society for U.S. Intellectual History blog excerpted the piece:
  3. Then the Twitter discussion started:
  4. Here begins a discussion between Andrew Hartman, Michael Hattem, Jason Warren, Rachel Hope Cleves, Jonathan Wilson, and Ken Owen on historians and "cultural baggage." The relevant (and concluding) passage from the original piece reads:
    "Early Americanists of my generation do not appear to carry the same cultural baggage that the generation following Wood acquired from its experience and the subsequent generation through its graduate education. Or at least we don’t carry it as heavily. For some junior historians, there seems to be less in terms of raw self-identity at stake in choosing their topics, creating a different dynamic in which studying political history or elites is not an implicit statement against historians of race, gender, or class and vice versa. One could argue that this is not a good thing, that historians should have a personal stake in their choice of subject, but the effects of such detachment will remain to be seen."
  5. The piece says "Early Americanists of my generation do not appear to carry the same cultural baggage..." not that they don't carry "as much cultural baggage," which is a different argument entirely. This misquote then leads to an entire dialogue below that misrepresents the argument of the piece.
  6. The piece does not argue (or even suggest) that anyone is "beyond cultural baggage," just that different generations have different cultural baggage.