• History as Art: Getz's ABINA AND THE IMPORTANT MEN

    by Cliopatria

    As university history instructors, we have to juggle a number of goals.  We want to deliver solid and engaging content.  We want to get students to think critically about sources.  And, we want to get students to develop a sense of how and why historians produce the sorts of studies we do.   Doing all of these things at once is difficult, in no small part because the materials we have to get these ideas across are generally geared towards one of these goals. 

  • What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate (2 of 2)

    by Cliopatria

    See part one here.

    In her recent essay at the CHE, UT-Arlington Professor Joyce Goldberg describes a sudden new classroom environment that has made it "untenable" for her to go on teaching military history: "Although I taught the class regularly and, I believe, successfully for nearly 30 years, a situation I encountered last semester makes continuing to do so untenable...[T]he discomfort I endured last semester was something new. From the start, I realized that many students in the class were not as interested in exploring the seminal issues of U.S. military history as they were in finding solace, seeking closure, or securing an understanding of their own—or, in many cases, their loved ones'—recent military experiences."

  • What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate (1 of 2)

    by Cliopatria

    At the CHE this week, a UT-Arlington professor describes her exhausting and untenable experience -- as she puts it, the "discomfort I endured" -- teaching military history to a class in which "more than half" of the students had connections to the military. I doubt whole sections of her account, but let's do this in pieces to keep it to a readable length.

    The funniest part of Joyce Goldberg's essay describes the seething tension in and around the class. A former soldier sent her a "harsh e-mail" about an assigned reading; veterans from enlisted backgrounds "spoke disparagingly" about officers commissioned through the ROTC, in the presence of ROTC candidates; "veterans of one branch of military service made derogatory comments about members of other branches—and not in a teasing way." In short, "There was a noticeable edge to their class contributions that wasn't present in my other classes."

    I'm laughing and sighing. I'm laugh-sighing.

  • Boston College (Cont.): Where the Fourth Amendment Goes to Die

    by Cliopatria

    In a grotesque brief filed with the federal District Court in Boston on Wednesday (see below), the Department of Justice argued that there is no right of private intervention before the courts against MLAT requests from foreign governments. Watch me draw a circle: The Department of Justice argued that those requests are reviewable only by the Department of Justice. As they put it, "It is apparent from the text of the US-UK MLAT that the determinations of the Attorney General challenged in this case are textually committed entirely to his discretion." (See this post for immediate background, and these posts for more.)

    No role for courts, no role for anyone else -- just executive decisions, undertaken at the request of foreign governments, that supposedly cannot be challenged in any way. And, as I've said before, the DOJ agrees to keep the purpose of the foreign government's request a secret, so what we have here are legal proceedings with secret origins, undeclared purposes, and no right to challenge, limit, or appeal them.

  • Is there such a thing as folk strategy?

    by Cliopatria

    [Cross-posted at Airminded.]

    Folk physics (or naive physics -- there's also folk biology, folk psychology, and so on) is the term used in philosophy and psychology to describe the way we all intuitively understand the physical world to work. It's very often at odds with scientific physics (unsurprisingly or else there'd be no need for the latter). For example, we all know that in order for something to move, there has to be some force moving it. If you stop pushing a box across the floor, it will stop moving; if a car's engine stops working, the car will slow down and stop too. That's folk physics. Scientific physics disagrees: force causes acceleration, not velocity; in the absence of any other forces, once an object is set in motion it will keep moving forever. Of course it's that caveat which is responsible for the different conclusions of folk physics and scientific physics in this case: friction with the ground exerts a force on the box and the car and so robs them of their momentum. Folk physics works well enough for us in our everyday lives but would be disastrously misleading in, say, trying to dock a spacecraft to a space station.

    I wonder if it's useful to apply this demarcation to military strategy? There have been attempts to formalise principles of strategy, of course, though trying to sciencise (yes, I just made that up) them by making them rigid formulae is not necessarily fruitful. Strategy has always been an art much more than a science, and as such is pretty intuitive itself. But certainly there can be (and probably usually is) a gap between what military leaders do and why they do it, and what everyone else, particularly civilians, understand them to be doing. This gap creates a space for folk strategy to exist.

  • CFP: Transnational Subjects

    by Cliopatria

    The following is a call for papers from Katrina Gulliver, editor of Transnational Subjects:

    As many readers know, I am the editor of a new journal, Transnational Subjects: History, Society and Culture. Our first issue will be appearing in October 2011. The journal is print and online, and fully peer-reviewed.

    Currently we have two open calls for papers. For our second issue, which will be published in May 2012, we invite essays on all aspects of  transnational and cultural history (4,000–7,000 words) and shorter historiographical or pedagogical case-study articles (fewer than 3,000 words).

    We also particularly welcome digital submissions, including audio/visual work that would not be suitable for a traditional journal. Digital content will also be peer-reviewed and published on our website. Send proposals to transnational@gylphi.co.uk. The deadline for issue 2 is 31 October 2011.

    Issue 3 will be a themed issue: Gender, Sexuality, and the Transnational Subject, to be guest edited by Gregory Smithers.

  • Polishing Turds

    by Cliopatria

    Joan Didion has described politics as "an agreement to overlook the observable." This may be the very last thing that anyone needs to say about the subject, but let's apply it to some current examples.

    Maureen I'm Sorry Every Time I Bother to Notice Her Existence Dowd frames the coming presidential election as a choice between "Eggheads and Blockheads." Traveling up the same road from the opposite direction, Kathleen Parker disgorges a column titled, "Smart money betting on stupid politicians." Shared premise: Democrats are book smart intellectuals who feel comfortable on campus, which makes them unlike Republicans.

  • Midweek Notes

    by Cliopatria

    Alexander Nazaryan, "Unbearable," The Book, 14 September, reviews Michel Pastoureau's The Bear: History of a Fallen King.

    James Grant, "Follow the Money," WSJ, 10 September, Jim Cullen for HNN, 12 September, and Steven Pearlstein for the Washington Post, 15 September, review Sylvia Nazar's Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius, a study of modern economic thought.

  • Things Ancient & Modern

    by Cliopatria

    Adam Kirsch, "The Other Socrates," Barnes and Noble Review, 7 September, marks the centenary of The Loeb Classical Library, "one of the most remarkable publishing projects in modern history."

    Daisy Banks interviews "Tom Holland on Ancient Rome," The Browser, 13 September, and Banks interviews "Peter Ackroyd on London," The Browser, 12 September, for their recommendations of five books on the subjects.

    Frank Viviano, "The Eunoch Admiral," California, Fall, tells a story of the historian, Frederic Wakeman, a dragon cup, and Zheng He, a 15th-century Chinese admiral.