SHAFR - Institute for the Study of Diplomacy Workshop on Historians and Public Engagement

ISD’s workshop on public engagement, in collaboration with the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR), brought more than 50 scholars, policymakers and other practitioners to Georgetown on June 18 and 19. The goal was to discuss how historians can engage more effectively with the media, the policy world, and communities around the country. 

ISD Director of Programs and Research Dr. Kelly McFarland organized the event, working with a committee of SHAFR historians to build on discussions held at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center in 2017. How do historians – and history – inform current world views? From the policy community, speakers included Mark Jacobson (professor of history at Amherst College and a former senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense) and Christian Ostermann (director of the History and Public Policy Program at the Wilson Center), with a keynote talk by Derek Chollet (senior advisor for security and defense policy at The German Marshall Fund and former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs). 

The diverse group of history academics and professionals enjoyed rich discussions about how historians can do more to engage with the broader public, and how to approach media outlets and other platforms to share their research and ideas. Panels on “Historians as Publicly Engaged Scholars” and “Historians and the Media” offered tips on how to get started, how to frame academic work for a non-academic audience, and how to decide which audiences to target. Historian and Past Present podcast host Nicole Hemmer and ISD editor Vanessa Lide joined us to discuss their work for The Washington Post analysis sections Made by History and The Monkey Cage. A lunchtime talk by Mills Kelly, professor of history at George Mason University, explored the impact of hands-on learning, and ways to engage students with new advances in historical pedagogy and digital humanities.

The June 2019 workshop continued ISD’s work under the Carnegie Corporation of New York grant “From Scholar’s Theory to Practitioner’s Work, and Back,” which seeks to bring together the academic and policy worlds under the “Bridging the Gap” Initiative.

Following the workshop ISD exhibited the Case Studies Library at SHAFR’s Annual Meeting, which took place in Arlington, VA, from June 20-22.