Is the study of history an endangered species? We read about the sad state of affairs in higher education with respect to history programs. Many universities are either scaling back on the history major, combining it with something else, or removing it from their offerings entirely. The say, of course, that this is due to declining enrollments in history programs. They are correct in that assessment. And that is what is so sad about it all. The university where I taught full-time for thirteen years (and continue to teach as an adjunct) has jettisoned both history and English as separate majors and decided to combine them in a new historical and literary studies program in order to keep them somewhat alive. In one sense, that’s fine; history and literature belong together. It’s just sad (I keep using that word, don’t I?) that such arrangements need to be made to make history and English viable.
I don’t bemoan this development only because I’m a history professor, but rather because I see the importance for a solid grounding in history as we consider where we are today and where we want to go, both as individuals and as a society. Historical understanding should be foundational in the lives of everyone, not only those in higher education.
C. S. Lewis knew that history was foundational for clear thinking. He was as much a historian as he was a literature professor. As I noted above, the two go hand in hand. I’ve written previously about my latest scholarly endeavor—a book revealing Lewis’s grasp of history and his views on its significance. Winged Lion Press will be publishing the book; hopefully, that can happen this year. My co-author, Jamin Metcalf, and I are almost finished writing the chapters, and I recently returned from the Wade Center at Wheaton College with a wealth of information that will help us as we wrap up the writing. The title of the book will be Many Times & Many Places: C. S. Lewis and the Value of History. You can find that concept and that wording in his superb sermon/essay, “Learning in War-Time.”
I’m pleased that the Lewis journal Sehnsucht has approved an article that will be part of a key chapter in the book. You can see the content page for the next edition here.
Jamin took the lead on this particular article. My contribution was as reviewer, editor, and colleague who collected as much research as possible to help with it. I hope you will purchase Sehnsucht and give the article a good look. I like it a lot, but then I might be biased.
Further, I received notice from the Wade Center that an article I submitted has been approved for publication in its journal, VII.
I was the lead on this one as it was a direct result of my research at the Center. The proposed title is “The Historical Perspective: Gleanings from C. S. Lewis’s Personal Library.” I investigated all pertinent books that Lewis owned that had any basis in history and/or historical interpretation. It was fascinating to see what he chose to highlight in those books, whether by underlining paragraphs and sentences, or by writing in the margins his own reactions to what he was reading. I have a few revisions yet to make on that article, which is set to be published in summer 2024.
Our goal in attempting this research and writing on Lewis’s historical perspective is to help in any way we can to inspire a love of history in those who will read what we have so diligently worked hard to publish. This book will be for young and old alike, although I’m particularly hopeful that the younger readers will be drawn to it. I’ve found that young people often don’t have any sense for why history is important. I’ve also discovered that many older people didn’t have a love of history when they were younger, but developed it later. My repeated comment to all is that I guess it takes having a history of one’s own before one can appreciate why it is important.
May Many Times & Many Places: C. S. Lewis and the Value of History play a significant role in inspiring a love of history and a love of learning overall.