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Aug 20, 2007 1:24 am

Wednesday Notes

Joshua Foer,"A Minor History of/Miniature Writing," Cabinet, Spring, has a time-line of major developments from 2060 BCE to 2003 CE. Also of interest: Daniel Rosenberg,"The Trouble with Timelines," Cabinet, Spring 2004. Thanks to Manan Ahmed for the tip.

Alan Jacobs,"Overloaded," Books & Culture, 13 August, reminds us that the cry of"information overload" has a long history. Take the work of Harvard's Ann Blair, for example. She shows that paper, the printing press, and Reformation debates caused scholars in the 16th century to"freak out" over"the sudden onslaught of texts."

Nicholas Wade's preview of Gregory Clark's A Farewell to Alms,"In Dusty Archives, A Theory of Affluence," NYT, 7 August, has had widespread, often deeply critical, discussion on the net. See, in particular:

Brad deLong,"Greg Clark's New Book, A Farewell to Alms, Grasping Reality with Both Hands, 7 August, argues that right or wrong, the book is"brilliant."
Mary Dudziak,"Was the Industrial Revolution Caused by Evolution?" Legal History Blog, 7 August, says the claims are provocative, but we'll wait to see the book, itself.
Jason Kuznicki,"A Farewell to Alms?" Positive Liberty, 11 August, where our colleagues, Sharon Howard and Nathanael Robinson, respond in comments.
Nathanael Robinson,"Tales from the Monocausal Universe, pt 1," Rhine River, 15 August.
______________,"Tales from the Monocausal Universe, pt 2," Rhine River, 18 August.
Richard Stern,"Genetic Values," Open University, 14 August.
John Carter Wood,"Some Thoughts on Evolution, History and Capitalist Genes ...," Obscene Desserts, 14 August.

Were the NYT's article by Clark, himself, we'd undoubtedly have held one of Cliopatria's symposia about it. As it is, I'll bundle these reactions in the history blogosphere, send them along to Professor Clark, and invite him to respond here. If he does, we'll declare it a symposium retroactively.
Update: Professor Clark has graciously agreed to respond to his critics in the history blogosphere. You may expect to see his response here at Cliopatria on Monday morning.

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Jason Kuznicki - 8/16/2007

I hope that Professor Clark will keep in mind, if it helps, that in offering my rather harsh criticism, it was by no means clear whether I should be criticizing the book or the reviewer. To my mind one of them seems like it has to give, but I am still not sure which one.

I think I should just repeat that I offered a preliminary rather than a final judgment, and that my post was essentially asking a question -- where does this blame belong?

Sherman Jay Dorn - 8/15/2007

Shades of Jared Diamond, anyone?

As an undergraduate, I had a wonderful experience taking a course in early-modern Europe, where Susan Stuard used every week to explore a different explanation for the "rise of Europe," thereby turning historiography into a puzzle. It was fabulous, and it also provided a way to think about this book, regardless of the merits: "Yes, dear, you're quite clever. While I'm cooking, could you please go join that bookshelf over there? I think you'll find lots of friends with similar interests."