Jon Stewart, Historians Will Miss You

I will miss Jon Stewart when he leaves The Daily Show after sixteen years of poking fun at the American political system. Each episode features an interview with an actor, author, or politician. While there’s only so much an interviewee can say in five or six minutes of banter with Stewart, an appearance on the show gives a significant boost to book sales.

A handful of professional historians have appeared on the show to promote their books, but most of the historical work that caught Stewart’s eye was written by journalists for trade presses. That says more about the sad state of the discipline than it does the show. The incentives in the academy push historians to craft technical works on narrow subjects for tiny audiences. We’ve ceded popular history–and even compelling narrative storytelling–to journalists and other non-specialists. That said, The Daily Show encouraged young, liberal Gen X-ers and Millennials to read more history. That’s a win in my book. Thanks, Jon Stewart.

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