Blogs > Cliopatria > More Noted Things

Jun 20, 2008 2:49 am

More Noted Things

Early Modern:
Following his attack on women's history and the Berkshire Conference, the blogger at Mercurius Rusticus a) composed a clever/snarky reply to his critics,"A Letter from Mercurius Civicus to Mercurius Cantabrigiensis" (scroll down to 6:12 AM EDT), and b) closed his blog to all but invited readers. We routinely delete all history blogs that are not open to the public from Cliopatria's History Blogroll, so Mercurius Rusticus no longer appears among our Pre-Modern History Blogs. When MR changes his policy, we'll be happy to return his blog to the list.

This was a missed opportunity, because underlying MR's bitterness and snark were some issues that ought be discussed: 1) in what ways, if any, has the growth of women's history broadened and deepened our understanding of history? 2) has its growth drained resources from other fields of historical inquiry and negatively affected the careers of male historians? and 3) person for person, have female historians been as productive as their male counterparts? (I have heard the late Elizabeth Fox-Genovese make the argument that they have not.) In the meantime, Sharon Howard's"Women's history/gender history: what and why?" Early Modern Notes, 18 June, is required reading for Mercurius Rusticus.

Early American National:
Scott W. Berg's Grand Avenues: The Story of the French Visionary Who Designed Washington, D.C. is reviewed in Kolby Yarnell,"L'Enfant and the Pride of the Potomac," NY Sun, 14 February 2007; Benjamin Forgey,"The French Heart Of Washington," Washington Post, 1 April; and Kenneth Ringle,"Washington: City and Symbol – or Neither?" European Affairs, Winter/Spring.

Modern Middle Eastern:
Gareth Porter,"US/Iran: Fearing Escalation, Pentagon Fought Cheney Plan," IPS, 6 June, reports that the Pentagon resisted plans for a limited assault on Iranian nuclear facilities. For the last seven months of the Bush administration, however, key figures in the Pentagon's opposition have moved elsewhere. Hat tip to Eric Altermann.

Karl Meyer,"Another bad deal for Baghdad," IHT, 17 June, compares the administration's proposals for long-term occupation of Iraq with Great Britain's failed treaty of 1930 with Iraq. Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.

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Janice Liedl - 6/19/2008

It might be nice to set up a roundtable discussion (or discussions) on the changing nature of the profession from the impact of new fields to the impact of new types of people in the old career paths. This isn't our parents' university system any more! (I say that feelingly as a second-generation academic.)

Even though I came into the profession as one of that most old-fashioned type of scholars, an intellectual historian, I hardly yearn for the days of old when a limited canon and a few subfields were preferred. And, to be honest, most of today's "old guard" don't strike me as hoary reactionaries who think that any innovation is heresy. Many of today's senior historians came to their positions on the heels of the great changes of the 60s.

The history of crime, the new military history, the history of popular culture, environmental history and gender history are all subfields that are becoming integral (if not already!) to the discipline in this century. I can't imagine teaching without using material from each of these areas and I know that my own research has benefited from exposure to their arguments and ideas. I don't believe I can teach World War I without touching on the diplomatic issues that form the core of the traditional historical narrative, but I equally can't imagine teaching it without the stories of life in the trenches, colonial forces embroiled in the war, the havoc war wreaked on the battlefields, how women were part of the war effort and so on. The "new fields" have become central to all sorts of historical topics and I can't help but feel that they've added a lot to our historical perspective.

Regarding personnel issues: my feeling is that we all have more opportunities, rather than less, on a gross level. I teach at a university which came into existence in the 1960s and I see many other younger foundations or growing faculty lists at other schools. There are more positions for historians even within the limited confines of universities and colleges. However, I suspect that new Ph.D.s feel even more pressure as doctoral programs turn out graduates in force. When applicants spend years in post-docs, if they're fortunate, or string together overloads and adjunct teaching gigs for a decade or more, we're not doing a good job at matching output to demand.

We just need to be careful and not suggest that it's women historians or women's history that are making problems here.

Ralph E. Luker - 6/19/2008

It's entirely appropriate to respond to the questions I posed by challenging their terms. What I intended to do was to re-frame MR's questions about and objections to women's history/gender studies without the bitterness and snark. I meant to do so in order to invite responses that were not similarly bitter and snarky. Thanks to Janice, Sharon, and Claire, that's happening.

Sharon Howard - 6/19/2008

I've got to agree with Janice. 'Drained'? That's a rather loaded way of putting it, isn't it? And how would you measure it? History in universities has expanded and diversified tremendously within the last 40 years or so. In 1970 my field barely existed; now there are crime historians, not to mention specialist research centres, everywhere. Have they 'drained' resources from non-crime historians?

On question 3: firstly, I have to complain that you changed the subject here. Female historians are not all women's historians (and not all women's historians are female). But, assuming you really mean female historians, the answer could well be yes. How many studies have we seen about how female academics still have to juggle work and domestic responsibilities far more than their male counterparts; how many are working in part-time jobs as a result? It wouldn't be all that surprising if their productivity was affected.

(I'm also thinking about question 1, I promise, but that would be a post for elsewhere.)

Janice Liedl - 6/19/2008

If we're going to posit that women's history has drained resources from other fields and if that's negatively affected the careers of male historians, we should also question the impact of every other subfield of the discipline to have emerged in the last hundred years and maybe discuss the ways in which women have been routinely marginalized across the discipline from time immemorial.

History wasn't pure and pristine until women brought their cooties into the profession circa 1970. I think it's fair to ask how the introduction of women's and gender history has changed the discipline, but the other questions you're posing seem to presume a masculine norm and a female pollution.

Just a little awkward and thoughtless in putting those talking points together, I'd say.

Nathanael D. Robinson - 6/19/2008

He is nothing if not mercurial.

Ralph E. Luker - 6/19/2008

Right. He's switched gears so often in the last two days that he's wearing me out just trying to keep up with it. There were a first attack, which was deleted, and a revised attack, which was deleted. Then the blog went invitation only; and now it's open to the public again. I suspect that MR is an pseudonymous blogger who's a little insecure about how to preserve his pseudonymity. No one's threatening to out him, but as a matter of character he'd do well to show a little restraint with the snark and a little respect for women who are far senior to him in the profession.

Jeremy Young - 6/19/2008

You did clearly say it, and I did misread it. My apologies. However, he does seem to have opened it back up now.

Ralph E. Luker - 6/19/2008

You misunderstand what I thought that I clearly said. MR has closed his site to all but invited *readers*. There is no policy regarding whether blogs allow comments by readers or not.

Jeremy Young - 6/19/2008

Do you really have a policy against blogrolling history blogs that don't accept comments? If so, why are these folks listed? Or this prominent site, which only allows comments from those who pony up $30 for a subscription?

Not that I at all think you should treate MR with civility, but it seems to me your rationale may be painting you into a corner.