For many decades now, we have witnessed a steadily widening gap as to the ways in which the purpose and character of historical writing has been conceived and understood. For while many professional historians have been content to accept the increasing specialization of historical research and the consequent diminishment of their readership, in the broader public culture, a new and urgent sense of the relevance of historical memory and commemoration to our present sense of identity has emerged. Expressed through the proliferation of popular narratives and biographies, but also, and more troublingly, the fierce recent debates concerning monuments of the Confederate era, this implicit challenge to the professionals has now been exacerbated by a radical scepticism regarding authoritative knowledge, embodied in the cry of "fake news."
Is this cultural divide unbridgeable? Are the professionals forever to be separated from their fellow citizens? Or is it possible to find in their common concern with humanity in the past, and the self-knowledge of humanity in the present, a shared moral basis for the reconstruction of a truly shared dialogue?
These are questions to be posed and discussed by historians Ciaran Brady, Trinity College Dublin and Naughton Visiting Fellow, and Peter Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professer emeritus, University of Virginia. Patrick Griffin, Madden-Hennebry Professor of History at Notre Dame, will moderate.