By Akira Hirakawa
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Each of us was to choose one of them. I happened to be sitting a few seats to his right, or perhaps his left. He happened to go around the room starting to his left, or perhaps his right. By the time he got to me, the only topics that had intrigued me at all were long gone. The three that were left appeared arid beyond any plausible pedagogic purpose. In frustration and not a little fury, I chose the one that seemed the most drearily pedantic of the three: voting procedures in eighteenth-century Massachusetts.
I barely fathom it now. I did have weeks of false starts to make up, but there was no need to make them all up at once; graduate students were allowed Incompletes, and most took them, without stigma. I did have to keep my grades up to assure my financial aid, but there was no real pressure at that point; fellowships were based on performance in the fall, and I knew, long before the spring term was over, that I was secure for the following year. It was something else. Scientists have written of their experience in certain collaborative enterprisesthe Manhattan Project, for exampleas utopian.
There is an emergent historiographical orthodoxy that attributes the "new social history" of the seventies to European influences such as the Annales school in France. That historiography is hogwash. Even in the hermetic terms of the filiation of academic ideas, the new history owed much more to Karl Marx and a disparate array of native sources than it ever did to tony French figures. Even insofar as we took our cues from others, the writings that mattered to me and to the new social historians I knew were works of blunt empirical audacity such as the Kinsey reports and pieces of pyrotechnic journalism such as the early Esquire essays of Tom Wolfe.
A Buddhist Chinese- Sanskrit Dictionary by Akira Hirakawa