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World history developments in the middle decades of the twentieth century, headed by wars and the major communist revolutions, had important results for family life in many regions. Imperialism, however, that brought the clearest interaction between Western industrial nations and other world regions during the nineteenth century. In the twenty-first century it was estimated that 15 million children had been killed in war and civil strife during the final three decades of the twentieth century alone, with many others orphaned or wounded. Unprecedented global declarations of human rights had important implications, particularly for the position of women and children in the family, and they were supported not only by United Nations agencies but also the host of international Non-Governmental Organizations that began to proliferate from the foundation of Amnesty International, in 1961, onward. Many traditional institutions have virtually disappeared amid the currents of change in modern world history. Families help translate global trends into most personal aspects of modern life.
There is still the widespread belief that a man does not belong at home taking care of children.
James A. Levine (1976, p. 153)
Fatherhood, long a neglected subject in scholarly and popular discussions of child rearing, has been treated to a substantial reevaluation during the past 15 years. The contributions of fathers to child development now seem more important and more varied than was assumed in the long heyday of maternalism. This reassessment has coincided with unquestionable new needs for changes in parental balance, given women's characteristic work commitments, and with some measurable shifts in parental procedures such as paternal presence at childbirth.
These varied developments have won an approving chorus from many family experts that may at points verge on the uncritical. They also carry interesting historical implications, as the undeniable reevaluations by experts may be extended to a larger scenario in which a century or more of paternal eclipse yields to revolutionary new patterns of fathering by the 1960s or 1970s. Assumptions about widespread change have not yet been subjected to extensive historical scrutiny, yet each scrutiny is essential to place the recent findings about fatherhood's potential into clearer perspective. The need for establishing historical trend and for situating current beliefs is to discover not only what fathers can or should do (or could or should have done) but what actually goes on and how current practice flows from past precedent.
Among the various facets of the new public history movement, applied history holds particular interest for social science historians. Public history generally involves the effort to use historical work for nonacademic audiences; it thus embraces historical museum work, aspects of archive preservation, and media presentations for general audiences. All these are admirable goals, not of course novel, but receiving new and explicit attention in a variety of recent programs, and in the Public History Association. Applied history, though part of public history in its broadest sense, has a more specific mission (one must note that some of the presentation training programs in public history are labeled “applied,” a terminological confusion that one hopes can be remedied). Applied historians seek directly to integrate certain kinds of historical research with the process of policy research, in both public and private sectors. Applied historians do this research themselves, most typically on a contract basis from academic sanctuaries but potentially as policy researchers independent of a direct academic base. They are also involved in training graduate students in this research mode, and in several cases have also mounted undergraduate courses or programs in the genre.