The Rise and Decline of British Studies in North America

I have been writing a history of the North American Conference on British Studies for submission to the Journal of British Studies. The essay is currently titled, “The NACBS at 60: The Rise and Decline of British Studies in North America” and meant to commemorate the 60th anniversary of NACBS. I have focused on looking at NACBS as a product of larger social and political forces. I have also included an analysis of what I believe to be the most pressing issues facing the field today.

I have received the first round of readers’ reports, which have been extremely helpful. I have also circulated the essay to a number of other scholars in the field and received very helpful feedback. But, considering that I am attempting to write a history of British Studies, I thought that it might be beneficial to get the input of the British Studies community (esp. the NACBS community) at large. Some of you have been in British Studies for decades. Others of you are new to the field. Please offer your perspectives.

The editors of the Journal of British Studies, Brian Cowan and Elizabeth Elbourne have been kind enough to support my idea to post the current version of my paper online at the History Working Papers Website. I am writing to ask you to read my essay and offer anecdotes and constructive criticism in the online margins (It’s easy to do. To comment on a paragraph, all you need to do is click on the quote icon on the left side of the screen. To reply to another person’s comments, just hit reply. Basic directions are here  if you have any problems.

By working together, I hope to do three things. First, I would like to make the essay as strong as possible. Secondly, I would like to offer my essay as a springboard to debate our current “crisis” and the future of British Studies (both on H-Albion and in the margins of the essay). Thirdly, I want to demonstrate how the open peer review process offered by the History Working Papers Project might generate richer scholarship.

You can read the essay here:
http://www.historyworkingpapers.org/?page_id=136

A few words on the direction of the essay:

1. You will note that there could be more on the history of JBS. I will integrate it into the final
version.

2. The essay is about North American British Studies from the perspective of a North American. If you have useful suggestions about transatlantic links or would like to see more about Canada, please mention it to me.

3. There are some controversies that I cover in the essay and some that I do not cover (e.g. the dissolution of _Albion_, which will be covered in the final essay). Depending on feedback, some of this can be adjusted.

4. Some of the ideas in the essay are controversial. I’d love to hear your perspectives. They can only make the final product better.

I appreciate your help, and look forward to our online discussion.

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