History News Network (HNN), a newsletter and website that brings historical perspective to current events, is now part of Columbian College’s Department of History. The department recently celebrated HNN’s acquisition with an event featuring journalist, author and political adviser Sidney Blumenthal.
“We’re surrounded by history here,” said Blumenthal during the event. “It’s a palimpsest. We walk on ground that, especially in our current environment, has deep resonance, and we can always learn, on every single block, of the past that affects us today.”
The question of history’s relevance to the present is central to the mission of HNN, which publishes original essays by professional historians and aggregates history-related material from other sources to help put current events into historical perspective. The website also publishes blogs by historians, including GW faculty, and news about the historical profession.
“It is a wonderful site,” said Blumenthal, whose current project is a five-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln. “It provides real insight into the latest historical thinking and what historians are working on, what they’re doing, and I eagerly await my HNN email every week.”
Blumenthal is a longtime subscriber to HNN and friend of founding editor Rick Shenkman. In December, Shenkman passed the title of editor-in-chief to double GW history alumna Kyla Sommers, BA ’13, PhD ’19. Her goal as the site’s chief steward is to maintain the quality of pieces and breadth of subjects it covers, while also using it as a tool to help prepare GW history students for their future careers. Next semester, she will teach a class in which students will help research, edit and prepare pieces for publication, alongside learning skills like grant writing.
“We want to help give students really strong CV skills when they graduate,” she said.
“This is an exciting addition to the Department of History,” added History Department Chair Katrin Schultheiss. “We pride ourselves on connecting students to the multiple ways that history is relevant in our complicated world. The addition of HNN further expands these opportunities."