Blogs > Cliopatria > History Carnival #9

Jun 2, 2005 1:16 pm

History Carnival #9

The History Carnival is a floating twice-monthly roundup of the best discussions of history in the blogosphere (that we can find, either by nomination or incessant surfing). Like many blog roundups -- Tangled Bank, Skeptics Circle, Philosopher's Carnival -- it sometimes takes fanciful forms, as the rotating, volunteer hosts have a free hand in organizing and presenting the information.

A mother of a history carnival? Well, I don't know much about motherhood. But I clearly do know about needing to go one better than everyone else who's had a hand in my, er, creation. I'm inclined to suspect, though, that the relationship is more like Frankenstein and his monster than that of a mother and child.

But let's get to business.

Because I am a document fetishist...

I start with the fragments of source material and the detective work that we use to build the larger picture we call History. Eric Muller knows why he loves archives. Evan Roberts has been tracking down the female researcher who produced a key source in his thesis, a survey of women and their work in Pennsylvania in the 1920s.

The Cranky Professor is delving into literary evidence of how medieval people wore buckles, brooches and badges and their use as lovers' gifts. Alun, meanwhile, brings our attention to the detective work of the archaeologist, and the problems of interpreting an artefact that represents thousands of years of building, demolition and rebuilding.

Jonathan Edelstein continues his exploration of the 18th-century Old Bailey Proceedings, with the case of the the Jewish diplomat from Algiers whose relations with his servant were not strictly platonic. I wrote about the interpretation of early modern court records of neighbours' disputes over livestock. Rebecca Goetz, at (a)musings of a grad student, has been pondering how best to approach the records of godparenting in seventeenth-century American colonies.

And although this one is a little old by Carnival standards, I liked it too much to leave out: Pipsqueak of The Common Room volunteered to transcribe some local Civil War letters and found a letter from General Sherman. Pipsqueak, by the way, is 14 years old. (Were you transcribing 19th-century letters when you were 14?)

Why those dusty old sources (and historians) matter...

One of the benefits of blogging is that it gives us as historians new opportunities to talk to general audiences about the significance of our sources and our research, to explore inventions and contentions in our histories and memories. Juan Cole discusses some early Islamic sources and insists on the need to put them in context and to understand the history of Islam if you're going to talk intelligently about it today. Meanwhile, Adam clears up a few examples of confusion in the media about Jewish history.

Alterior has a reminder that many of our ideas about medieval women ('damsels in distress') are Victorian inventions. Mind you, she's a little shocked to discover how they went about proving that a husband was impotent (it was one of the legitimate grounds for the annulment of a marriage). And Ancarett offers an early modern perspective on the question: 'when does human life begin?'

Orac digs into when and how David Irving became a Holocaust denier. Kristin Brorson is a little concerned about national characteristics as represented in school textbooks. (And she gets her readers to reveal their stereotypes of Scandinavians.)

Caleb McDaniel traces the early history and changing meanings of Memorial Day. Nathanael Robinson has some introductory comments on the background to a controversial attempt to invent a tradition with a museum of Rhenish History in 1920s Cologne, in the first of a planned series of posts. And in one of the outstanding posts of the month, Craig Colbeck probed the relationship between karate and modernity in Japan.

But historical fictions do matter too...

I would say that, since I've been reading historical novels since I was a teenager, wouldn't I? Yet historical fictions can tell us a good deal about the cultures that produced them, and even stimulate us to think afresh about our pasts. Saint Nate doesn't believe that St Brendan reached America nine centuries before Columbus, whatever his (10th-century) biography might suggest. But then, saints' biographies were a well honed genre of historical fiction long before Scott. If your interest lies in the nineteenthy-century varieties, though, Miriam Burstein provides an overview of nineteenth-century historical fiction on the Web, while Simon has been reading some early twentieth-century Scandinavian medieval historical fiction and comments on its depiction of sexual morality.

Bringing us up to date on fictitious pasts, Sean McCann has some observations on the worlds known and unknowable of a historical novel about mid-19th century Virginia. And if you still have the stamina for very long posts, A Cephalous objects strongly to certain aspects of McCann's views of identity politics and memory.

Some light refreshments

(Put the kettle on, give yourself a breather.)

John Emerson has some 700-year-old jokes. Meanwhile, eb rewrites the Communist Manifesto for the academy today.

(OK. Ready to continue?)

On church and state

Red Ted is trying to make sense of the religious beliefs of Franklin Pierce (the 14th president of the USA, for other ignorant Britons). The Zombie is enthusiastic about a recent book discussing the nineteenth-century rise and rise of Methodism.

Getting more contentious, James Oakes contributes to the ongoing (or never-ending) debate about the state-church relationship of the US constitution by suggesting that eighteenth-century American society before the Revolution was becoming increasingly secular. David Morgan sees a historical parallel between campaigns to put 'warning' stickers on school science books dealing with evolution and what happened to Copernicus' great treatise"On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres" in 1542.

Oh, and one of my favourite English bloggers, Tony is preoccupied with rewriting Church history. He's an Anglican vicar, so it's not what you might at first think from the title. (And if you can help him out with his project, he'll no doubt be very grateful.)

On teaching and thinking

Jonathan Dresner writes twoposts about the particular problems - and benefits - of teaching a World History course intensively over a short period of time: if there's less time to think and ponder, there's also less time to forget. Another Damned Medievalist, though, has some telling criticisms of the broad-brush approach and blind spots of World History.

In Britain, we don't really do this project called 'World History'. But we did have an empire, and Rob Priest is thinking about the growth of interest in its history, not least through popular histories, TV and fiction. Back in the USA, Tim Burke is compiling a collection of colonial fairy tales, the persistent images or tropes of 'Africa' in post-1950s American or global popular culture, for his students. (And we might well wonder how many of those tropes will appear in a new Völkerschau at the zoo?)

Marc Comtois comments on the debate among conservatives over Donald Kagan's view of history as moral teacher. Dr History is sceptical of claims that location affects interest in history.

Mark Grimsley (who I first came across when compiling the first Carnival) continues to overturn all of our lazy stereotypes about military historians and military history with his explorations of the subject. The only difficulty is selecting from the cornucopeia, but if you haven't yet read his series of posts on 'A Good Day to Die', you should start right now. I think this instalment discussing why people study military history is superb, but it kicks off here.

eb reminds us how long social history has been around, while Sepoy is a little sceptical about the rapid growth of one of its most recent offshoots, pop-histories of little things. Are they good history? Ralph Luker, too, offers some thoughts on micro-history and commodity history, the significance of the subjects and the new insights they can offer. (Oh, and Barista has a few titbits on the history of Vegemite.) Plus, I nearly missed Evan's further thoughts on those commodity histories.

Nils Gilman discusses the Straussians, and how intellectual historians should think about the relationship between the original ideas of intellectuals and the later movements that appropriate them. While Don Herzog has a triple whammy of key eighteenth-century British conservative thinkers: Edmund Burke on atheism; William Paley on the contentment of the poor; and Hannah More and her best-selling pamphlets in reaction to the French Revolution.

On conversations with other disciplines

From philosophy, Hugo Holbling invites us to reconsider Newton's scientific, religious and alchemical ideas. Brandon Watson also has a philosopher's take on arguments and historical contexts. Jon Christensen has some comments on the curious history of conservation, and the tensions between theorisers and those pesky empirical historians. Alun reveals the value of contemporary archaeology, how artefacts and locations can provide alternative perspectives to our usual textual sources.

And finally, things of beauty and wonder

Sheila Brennan is not too impressed by history museums on the Web, but she has found some splendid examples. Aydin Örstan (a fan of molluscs) notes a small yet significant event in the history of science. And at the ever beautiful and wondrous Giornale Nuovo, Misteraitch takes us down another path that today we hardly recognise as scientific, with the alchemist Michael Maier'sAtalanta Fugiens (1617), and introduces us to the remarkably diverse life and accomplishments of the author. The past is, indeed, a different country.

Thanks to everyone who sent links (and everyone who didn't, since it would just have been even longer if you had). And now I'm off to the archives to start my summer of that historical detective work.


The next carnival will be hosted by Marc Comtois of Spinning Clio (as long as he doesn't take fright at the sight of this lumbering beast) on 15 June. Emails to him at:

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

Sheila Brennan - 6/4/2005

Perhaps the beginning of the summer gave Sharon a jump-start on this carnival. I'm still new to the Carnivals, but Jeremy of Clioweb turned me on to them. Great job!

David Silbey - 6/1/2005


Sharon Howard - 6/1/2005

Marc, this really isn't something that you have to (or even should) emulate. Think of it more as evidence of my obsessiveness. Probably not very healthy.

But thanks all for the kind words everyone!

(And thanks to the ed. or whoever added the note at the top, by the way. Nice touch.)

Julie A Hofmann - 6/1/2005

Simply amazing! Woman, you shame us all!

Jonathan Edelstein - 6/1/2005

I second all the compliments you've received from other sources - this was amazing. (And thanks for continuing to include me even though I've been remiss in making contributions. I'll definitely have something for the next one.)

Evan Garcia - 6/1/2005

Wow, this will take some time to get through. Thanks for the outstanding service.

Rob MacDougall - 6/1/2005

Great, great job, Sharon. I've been off in outer space for a month or so; now I know exactly how to catch up on everything I've missed.

Marc A. Comtois - 6/1/2005


Rob D. Priest - 6/1/2005

My dear, dear God. I'm not sure if this is a gift or a dare. Superb!

Caleb McDaniel - 6/1/2005

I'm stunned! In a good way!

Ralph E. Luker - 6/1/2005

Terrific job, Sharon!

Jonathan Dresner - 6/1/2005

You have once again raised the bar on all of us. Thanks, I think....