Today and tomorrow some of the world’s leading philosophers and theorists of history will gather in Middletown to discuss key issues concerning the meaning and direction of the past and how we make sense of it. The seminar is sponsored by History and Theory, the world’s leading journal in the philosophy of history, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2010. Since 1965 H&T has made its home at Wesleyan, and it has long attracted gifted thinkers to campus who are eager to explore how we know or tell stories about the past, and what we can do with the knowledge or stories we make out of history.
Brian Fay, William Griffin Professor of Philosophy, has edited the journal since 1993. Before Brian, Richard Vann, Professor of History and Letters, emeritus, was at the helm from 1965, and remains as Senior Editor. A small group of Wes history faculty lead a very distinguished editorial board: Philip Pomper, Gary Shaw and Ethan Kleinberg. Julia Perkins, Administrative Editor, has been an essential part of the team for decades. The journal is read all over the world, and the editors only accept about 10% of the articles submitted for consideration.
In addition to topics in the philosophy of history ranging from mathematical modeling to the presence of the past, the journal publishes theme issues on subjects like Religion and History, Ethics and the Historian, Evolutionary Theory and History, and, most recently, Photography and History (edited by Wes faculty member Jennifer Tucker). The subject of this weekend’s seminar asks the guests to think about which issues will be crucial over the next 50 years in philosophy of history.
I’ll always remember when a teacher of mine in graduate school suggested that I publish an essay I’d written for his seminar. I immediately thought of History and Theory, though I was more than a little intimidated to submit my piece. My essay on Foucault’s ‘History of the Present’ came out almost 30 years ago, and since that time I’ve been a faithful reader of (and frequent contributor to) the journal.
I was very proud to receive my acceptance of that first publication on Foucault, and I am delighted to salute History and Theory as it celebrates its first 50 years by turning its attention to the future of how we make sense of and live with the past!