Future of Popular Politics

This class was the first I’ve ever taken that focused exclusively on popular politics rather than the more commonly studied history of the country’s elites. Someone in class summed it up well when they said that this class was all about the kinds of topics that usually have one or two class periods devoted to them in a normal class, or take up one section of a textbook. I definitely think it is a good thing that there seems to be a shift today in academia toward doing more popular history. The elite figures we typically hear about are the ones generally making decisions and holding power, and so obviously they will always be important to study. However, it is difficult as a historian to claim to truly know an era if you do not have some idea of how non-elites such as minorities, women, and the working class expressed themselves politically.

What is also exciting about the field of popular history is how much it will be able to grow in the coming years due to advances in technology. People attempting to study popular politics today are quite limited in their access to firsthand accounts from non-elites. However, imagine somebody studying our current time period fifty years from now. They will likely have access to huge archives of social media and Internet activity. Imagine the use of looking back on old facebook and twitter posts (a thought that admittedly I’m sure scares a lot of us now) as a historian. On these sites, users from all walks of life frequently post about their political views and feelings on current events. With that in mind, it seems that the field of popular history has nowhere to go but up.