HIST 5104 – McNeill ^2’s Web


 HIST 5104 – McNeill ^2’s Web




An excerpt of Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion states (“Walter” 2013): “Oh! What a tangled web we weave When we first practice to deceive!”   Beyond “the tangled web,” deception, according to Encarta Dictionary, has been defined as “the practice of deliberately making somebody believe things that are not true.”   Perhaps “deception” draws to Shakespeare’s MacBeth, “the play that dramatizes the corrosive psychological and political effects produced when evil is chosen as the way to fulfil the ambition for power (“MacBeth” 2013).”   On the other side of the continuum from evil to good, ambition too can play a positive role as a determinate that “drives history (McNeill and McNeill 2002; McNeill and McNeill 2003 p. 4).”   Is not the comprehensive The Human Web: A Bird’s-Eye View of World History (McNeill and McNeill 2003) a work of ambition?   The elder McNeill, “widely considered to be the dean of world historians (McNeil and McNeill 2002),” appears motivated by “progress” and “prehistory (Yerxa 2002):”




  • Progress was one of the great ideas of the Western world, and I was brought up with all that.   I distinctly remember the week in which I encountered Toynbee as a second-year graduate student at Cornell.  I suddenly realized that the history I had been taught had been confined to ancient Greece and Rome and the Western world, and the rest of the world only joined history when Europeans conquered it.  


  • You leave out prehistory; you leave out all the non-literate populations; and you concentrate in effect on a very small number of people, often a very skewed sample of the upper classes, the clerics, the literate.   So clearly I consider the obsession with written sources to be an absurdity if you’re trying to understand what happened.


    McNeill and his son have developed a comprehensive historical (plural) “webs” (McNeill and McNeill 2003 p. 4) framework that responds to interest in “the long-term development of the economic, political, social, and ecological connections that characterize the modern world (Wilson 2004).”   The silky metaphor “is a set of connections that link people to one another (McNeill and McNeill 2002; Wilson 2004)” that paints a “the thesis of the work” by conveying “relationships are central to human development, since they continually involve the communication of ideas and information.   This affects future human behavior that…fuels the “ambition to alter one’s condition to match one’s hopes (Davis 2005).””   The “career of …webs,” which presently form “a unitary maelstrom of cooperation and competition,” comprise of first worldwide, metropolitan and cosmopolitan categories (McNeill and McNeill 2003 pp. 4-5).   The current web is considered to be a “modern” starting “with the telegraph” becoming “increasingly electrified (McNeill and McNeill 2002), inspiring a visual of the “radioactive” bitten Peter Parker who would become “Spider-Man (“Spider-Man” 2013).”   Unlike a web to induce nutrients to a spider (“Spider” 2013), this “career” framework permits free exchange of “diseases and weeds” across time.   These “webs of communication and interaction,” in form of a “human response,” swap and extend “information, items, and inconveniences” to “shape history (McNeill and McNeill 2002).”                 


    With language as “the most important breakthrough,” communication can be transmitted in other forms including “dance, ritual, and art” and enabled humans to form into “larger and larger…cohesive and coordinated” groups (McNeill and McNeill 2003 p. 23) where “settlement…permitted far faster population growth (McNeill and McNeill 2003 p. 28).   In comparison with the “web,” water would appear to be deemed a complex metaphor throughout the framework (and The Human Web text for that matter) starting with its impact on agriculture and “engineering had to be perpetually maintained.”   “Running water” was mandated “by complex local agreements to regulate access (McNeill and McNeill 2003 pp. 32-33).   Dating back 4,000 years ago, The Code of Hammurabi has been considered as one of the seminal documents to outline fundamental regulations on the use of water in conjunction with (productivity and) agricultural techniques.   Many of these tenets remain adopted today into legal establishments across the globe (Phelps 2007).  


    Utilizing running water to harness power (through massive wheels that rotated the shafts for wheat flour grinders) dates back two thousand years ago to the Greeks, a concept that inspired a revolution in the 18th century where thousands of towns and cities across the globe were located around small hydropower sites (“Small” 2001).  Literally, the increasing power of water inspired Mark Twain’s quote “whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting.”  The quote underscores the potential of a vital resource to generate (for the most part) conflict amongst individuals and small communities as opposed to between self-governing bodies (Phelps 2007).  Across the U.S., hydropower projects current deliver to the nation 81 percent of the renewable electricity generation and about ten (10) percent of the total electricity (“Small” 2001).   Revisiting to the “framework” and its “long-term development,” water through hydropower speaks to “economic, political, social and ecological connections.”   Water, as a metaphor, could represent “flows not just of food and energy but also of meanings, hopes, and aspirations, uniting and dividing humankind more forcefully than ever before.”   Perhaps fitting in a modern time where communication technology now can stand in for personal contact, the elder McNeill, prefacing with an apocalyptic vain that points to examples such as “repeated epidemics (McNeill and McNeill 2003 p. 173),” expresses the “need” for “face-to-face, primary communities for long-range survival: communities, like those our predecessors belonged to, within which shared meanings, shared values, and shared goals made life worth living for everyone, even the humblest and least fortunate (McNeill and McNeill 2003 p. 326).”



    Davis, D. G.   (2005).   “Book Reviews.”   Libraries and Culture, 40(4), 568-569.


    “MacBeth – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.”   (2013).   Wikipedia,

    <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacBeth>  (November 23, 2013).


    McNeill J. R., and McNeill, W. H.   (2002).   “Webs of Interaction in Human History.”   Historically Speaking, 4(2), 11-12.  


    McNeill J. R., and McNeill, W. H.   (2003).   The Human Web: A Bird’s – Eye View of World History.    W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, NY.


    Phelps, D.   (2007).   “Water and Conflict: Historical Perspective.”   Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 133(5), 382-385.


    “Small Hydropower Systems.”   (2001).   DOE/GO-102001-1173 FS217, U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, D.C.   (July).


    “Spider-Man – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.”   (2013).   Wikipedia,

    <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider-Man>  (November 23, 2013).


    “Spider Web – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.”   (2013).   Wikipedia,

    <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider_Web>  (November 23, 2013).


    “Walter Scott – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.”   (2013).   Wikipedia,

    <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Scott >  (November 23, 2013).


    Wilson, R. M.   (2004).   “Reviews.”   Journal of Historical Geography, 30(3), 578-579.


    Yerxa, D. A.   (2002).   “An Interview with J. R. McNeill and William H. McNeill.”   Historically Speaking, 4(2), 13-15.







HIST 5104 – Is Prehistory Like a Geotechnical Investigation?

HIST 5104 – Is prehistory like a geotechnical investigation?


“Metaphors do much of our thinking for us.”   By “evoking whole fields of thought, they communicate complex ideas and images with extraordinary efficiency (Smail 2008 p. 78).”   “We need not dig only in the dusty topsoil of the strata that form the history of humanity.   The deep past is also our present and future (Smail 2008 p. 202).”  Talk of a “blueprint (Smail 2008 p. 79),” “concrete (Smail 2008 p. 93),” “square footage or location of office space (Smail 2008 p. 164) and (Brooks’ talk of) “excavation (Ogundiran 2013)” as well as recognition of “the continuities and contingencies derived from an earlier past (“Investigating” 2013) draws to a discussion on geotechnical investigation of subsurface conditions when constructing a new building.


Subsurface conditions warrant contingency consideration during planning, design and pricing as humans (including Contractors) do not have the capability (i.e. Superman X-ray vision) to see below the ground.   It is strongly recommended that one conduct a geotechnical investigation when deciding to construct a new building (e.g. an office building for commercial or house for residential).   An investigation can entail taking borings within the proposed footprint of the structure to gauge potential subsurface conditions.   It is an indication of potential ground conditions that exist, not an absolute due to select samples being taken.   Once samples indicate potential conditions, a Structural Engineer, typically working as a consultant under the direction of the Architect, can use bearing pressure data (pounds per square foot – PSF) to design the foundations (including reinforced “concrete”) upon which the structure (and other contents) ultimately rests.


In responding to “deleterious (“Investigating” 2013)” existing conditions, there may be several remedies available to an Owner.   Options could range from removing (the deeper you dig, the more expensive it gets) poor soils (or other contents – such as buried trash) and replacing with adequate bearing materials (soil and/or aggregates) to designing special foundations with piles or caissons (may be a reality the closer the proposed foundations are located near water/marine conditions).   Should the remedy appear cost-prohibitive, the Owner may elect under the direction of the Design Professional to re-site the building somewhere else on the property (or may elect to investigate prior to purchasing the property through a pre-condition survey).   For that reason, it would be prudent for one to conduct a geotechnical investigation at the beginning (or conceptual phase) of a proposed project, before detailed design.


Where does a geotechnical investigation fit in the context of the history of a respective building?   One of the readings quickly establishes purpose of the forum with “the major question” of “how to conceptualize and write history across what is assigned to different temporalities and different horizons of experience that are supposedly opposed to history: prehistory and history, premodern and modern…(Ogundiran 2013)?”   Is not a geotechnical investigation an act of archeology?    “Scholarly interest…has long cleaved between those who study “prehistory” (archaeologists) and those who study “history” (historians) (Brooks 2013).”   Ogundiran (2013) eloquently continues:

History shares with archaeology a primary interest in understanding human and social actions within specific temporal contexts.   Hence, periodization, temporality, and practice are central to the process of historical explanation.   However, periodization is not just about building chronological sequences.   It is about making sense of how a community or a society at a particular time viewed itself and the outside world, how it made sense of its past and present and its interactions with other peoples.    This in turn raises two vexing questions about the idea of temporality: (1) How are time and events experienced and remembered, and how are they organized by social actors and by the historian? And (2) How is periodization constructed and time measured, and whose and which periodization scheme is to be used for ordering time and change, especially in the contexts of comparative and global history?


Do the unknowns inherent in subsurface conditions create a Viconian “conundrum (Smail 2008 p. 32)?” In absence of X-ray vision, humans can address uncertainty through exercising sound “decision making.” In one instance, “decision making” has been partitioned in great (a most comprehensive attempt – the Authors have a very modest title with the of use “brief”!) detail (with nearly 50 events on a timescale) from prehistory up to including 2005 with Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink (Buchanan and O’Connell 2006).   Such a partitioning of time within a realm of decision-making can too point back to both an initial discussion at the beginning of the semester on the segregation of modernity and post-modernity to current readings on the segregation of pre-history with history (or pre-modernity with modernity).   “Prehistory is a term that modern historians have been reluctant to let drop….Prehistory is a buffer zone (Smail p. 2).”   However, some thought contends ““pre” does not constitute a historical era in its own right” and the “easiest way to start a journey is to ask the wrong question: At what moment did the people of “pre” cross the threshold of modernity?”  In context, “if modernity is to have any meaning at all, it cannot be a quality that is continually arriving for 2.6 million years (Smail and Shryock 2013).”


Who is responsible for unearthing the debate on pre-history and its merits?   Are Vico and Ranke, the fathers of modern history (Smail p. 20), holding the shovels?    What about the “roar” of “new enthusiasm” that has generated much discussion on “modern and the postmodern (Smail and Shryock 2013)?”   With a roaring debate, is it not natural to point also back to the “pre-modern” beginning when attempting to dissect modern and postmodern?   As with a geotechnical investigation for addressing subsurface unknowns in constructing a building, the “history of practice calls for (Ogundiran 2013):”

  • “A polysemic conception of time that unites the cyclical and linear modes of historical thinking;”
  • “A tripartite view of time: the past, present, and the future, so that “the sense of what is historic is visualized not just in terms of a past event but also in terms of an unfolding present…that is viewed with future times in mind;”
  • An understanding that “Yet time is not necessarily cyclical or linear.   It can be discontinuous, leaving gaps in its trail, or it can be made up of twists and turns.”



Brooks, J. F.   (2013).   “Women, Men, and Cycles of Evangelism in the Southwest Borderlands, A.D. 750 to 1750.”  American Historical Review, 118(3), 738-764.


Buchanan, L., and O’ Connell, A.   (2006).   “A Brief History of Decision Making.”   Harvard Business Review, 84(1), 32-41.


“Investigating the History in Prehistories.”   (2013).   American Historical Review, 118(3), 708-708.


Ogundiran, A.   (2013).   “The End of Prehistory?   An Africanist Comment.”   American Historical Review, 118(3), 788-801.


Smail, D. L.   (2008).   On Deep History and the Brain.   University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.


Smail, D. L., and Shryock, A.   (2013).   “History and the “Pre.””   American Historical Review, 118(3), 709-737.


HIST 5104 – A Request to Strike a Balance, Inquire on a General Framework AND to Opt Out of the Spelling Bee

HIST 5104 – A Request to Strike a Balance, Inquire on a General Framework AND to Opt Out of the Spelling Bee


In starting with the “introduction,” I could not help to (draw an immediate conclusion) feel that Eley would be subjected to harsh criticism from three “perspectives” (that would follow) with the (focused by summary) written (negative) accounts including: “criticizes…for underestimating (Sewell);” “calls into question….history….he neglects (Spiegel);” and “deleterious cost…obscuring key elements (Goswami) (“Introduction” 2008).”   A question that came to mind – will these (three) perspectives (readings) act as a primer on (establishing a) tone (of constructive (rather than a negative) centered assessment) for next two weeks of scheduled reviews?   The theme of “basic pluralism” in A Crooked Line draws attention to “the politics of intellectual collaboration through respect for differences.”   The author of this work states “however rigorously we explicate our own positions, those differences will in any case always remain” adding “that does not necessarily mean that we cannot enter into fruitful conversation (Eley 2008b).”   The following composite (of three) perspective(s) has been developed in the spirit of promoting constructive thought in spite of critical review of the work – A Crooked Line.


Peer perspective (#2) opens with “In A Crooked Line, Geoff Eley offers a survey of the fundamental transformation that overtook the practice of social history between the 1970s and 1980s with the rise of cultural history in response to challenges to prevailing forms of social history posed by a linguistic turn.   Triangulating, as he says, …the story he tells is embedded in the context of his own formation as a historian, a formation with a distinctively British…voice…It is a story, as well, of a particular professional generation that came to maturity in the aftermath of the 1960s and was deeply committed to historical change in the present…(Spiegel 2008).”


Peer perspective (#1) throughout the body of the text includes the following dialogue: (1) “his extended discussion…is masterful;” (2) “the range of reading and …reference is…very wide, and the book includes shrewd observations….;” (3) “Nor do other disciplines escape his gaze…;” (4) “His footnotes…are a goldmine of references and commentary;” (5) “His concluding chapter is as eloquent as those that precede it;” (6) “I entirely agree with this conclusion;”(7) “A Crooked Line is a powerful stimulus to reflection…” and (8) “he has masterfully sketched out the terrain on which the debates must take place (Sewell 2008).”


Peer perspective (#3) closes with “A Crooked Line …represents a bracing antidote…The “defiant” hope voiced in the work that new “histories of society” might emerge in the wake of the cultural turn joins a growing chorus of calls to break out of the corral of culturalism.   These efforts might well provide the stimulus for a sustained mediation of social and cultural forms in historical debates and political imagination alike (Goswami 2008).”


The negative connotation of “defiant” led me to contemplate whether Eley’s macro framework (of “Optimism,” “Disappointment,” “Reflectiveness” and “Defiance”) could act as a template for graduate studies.   Does, or can for that matter “Defiance” (“there is really no need to choose (Eley 2008a p. 181)”) signify a contribution to knowledge?   Certainly one seeking to be a scholar has “the belief in knowledge (Eley 2008a p. 59)” – “Optimism,” an opportunity to reach beyond the (“core” (Eley 2008a p. 112)) limits with an “overarching framework (Eley 2008a p. 108)” all the while being subjected to (the possibility of) failure (whether perceived or not) – “Disappointment,” and roam the “landscape (Eley 2008a p. 175)” to experience “our own encounter with the intellectual shifts (Eley 2008a p. 173)” – “Reflectiveness.”


History has always been a hybrid form of knowledge, syncretizing past and present, memory and myth, the written record and the spoken word.” – Raphael Samuel “made history into an organic form of knowledge (Eley 2008a p. 154).”


Yes, the pursuit of (additional and/or continued) education allows one (value through) the opportunity to not “dwell exclusively inside the minutiae of personal experience and individual lives,” permitting the “moving out to the larger questions (Eley 2008a p. 175).”   Notwithstanding, select(ed by Eley) “superb historians ….spent a large part of their careers outside the university, involved in one kind of public activity or another (Eley 2008a p. 203).”   Also worth considering, not all contributory works are authored in the “fully credentialed professional sense (Eley 2008a p. 163).”  A “spirit of collaboration and debate (Eley 2008a p. 101)” demands balance at the start by avoiding “angry intervention” and promoting “openness and generosity (Eley 2008a p. 121).”  I remain thankful that my studies don’t require me to participate in a spelling bee for words encountered during the (Eley 2008a) reading, including Vergangenheitsbewältigung (coming to terms with the past), Gesellschaftsgeschichte (societal history) and Alltagsgeschichte (the history of everyday life).





Eley, G.  (2008a).   A Crooked Line: From Cultural History to the History of Society, 4th Ed., The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, MI.


Eley, G.  (2008b).   “The Profane and Imperfect World of Historiography.”   American Historical Review, 113(2), 425-437.


Goswami, M.   (2008).   “Remembering the Future.”   American Historical Review, 113(2), 417-424.


“Introduction: Geoff Eley’s A Crooked Line.”   (2008).   American Historical Review, 113(2), 391-392.


Sewell, W. H.   (2008).   “Crooked Lines.”   American Historical Review, 113(2), 393-405.


Spiegel, G. M.  (2008).   “Comment on A Crooked Line.”   American Historical Review, 113(2), 406-416.

HIST 5104 – Great Scott! – Let Her Set the Record Strait on Women and Gender

Great Scott! – Let Her Set the Record Strait on Women and Gender


Women have a profound impact on my life, spanning from birth to current breath.  I suspect not to be alone in this thinking as (Country Music Icon) George Strait plays on the ole Compact Disc (CD) during the writing of this post.   Refusing to speak for anyone on the content (of the week), I gather (right or wrong) that Strait (or (including and not limited to) Alan Jackson, Ronnie Milsap, Kenny Rogers, etc.)) feels the same way (that Women have a “profound” impact on life).   Don’t care for Country Music? – You would appear to be able to make a similar observation on other performing artists including Barry White and Lionel Richie, for starters.   Attempting to multi-task and support such as a statement, I have now picked up the Four Compact Disc Set of Strait Out of the Box and scan the list of songs within the set.   Here is a sample of the (72) tracks with the set of (4) CDs:


  • Disc One
    • “Her Goodbye Hit Me in the Heart”
    • “If You’re Thinking You Want a Stranger (There’s One Coming Home)”
    • “Heartbroke”


  • Disc Two
    • “Let’s Fall to Pieces Together”
    • “You’re Something Special to Me”
    • “Nobody in His Right Mind Would’ve Left Her”
    • “All My Ex’s Live in Texas”


  • Disc Three
    • “If You Ain’t Lovin’ (You Ain’t Livin)”
    • “Baby’s Gotten Good at Goodbye”
    • “You Know Me Better Than That”
    • “Gone as a Girl Can Get”


  • Disc Four
    • “When Did You Stop Loving Me”
    • “The King of Broken Hearts”
    • “Stay Out of My Arms.”
    • “Check Yes or No”
    • “I Know She Still Loves Me”


If passion acts as a prerequisite for success, this “King of Country,” having “sold over 70 million albums” domestically with “(13 multi-platinum, 33 platinum and 38 gold) certifications (“George” 2013),” appears inspired with a constant for life, lyrics and profession – Women.


  • Would it be appropriate to feature an inspired “King of Country” in the History of Women or Gender?


While being on the topic of profession, a discussion on “contracting” will make the next attempt to connect to the readings and themes this week that emphasize Women and Gender.   These readings took me back to the many trade contractors and suppliers (people) that I have had the good fortune of working with while in the profession.    Some of these companies identify as Minority Business Enterprise / Women Business Enterprise (MBE/WBE) at both a Maryland (MD) State (“Maryland” 2013; “Welcome” 2013) and local (24 = 23 MD Counties + Baltimore City) jurisdictional levels, including Baltimore County (“Minority” 2013) or Prince George’s County (“MBE” 2013).   While nomenclature may not be universal in attempting to convey consistent intent, minority individuals, as defined by one jurisdiction (Prince George’s County, Maryland), identify “as individuals who have been subjected to prejudice or cultural bias because of their identity as a member of a group in terms of race, color, ethnic origin, or gender, without regard to their individual capabilities.”   Further, these “individuals are limited to members of the following groups: African Americans; Aleuts; Asian Americans; Asian – Subcontinent; Eskimos; Females; Hispanic Americans; Native Americans; Veterans; and Service Disabled Veterans (“MBE” 2013).”   Such classification would appear to draw attention to (and may draw inspiration from) a “new history” that “will leave open possibilities for thinking about current feminist political strategies and the (utopian) future, for it suggests that gender must be redefined and restructured in conjunction with a vision of political and social equality that includes not only sex, but class and race (Scott 1986).”


Joan Scott authored a “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis Essay” and has been considered a “most obvious influence in the fields of women’s and gender history” as well as playing “a significant part in the broader shift from social to cultural history, from the study of the demography, experiences, and social movements of the oppressed and stigmatized groups to the study of representations, language, perception, and discourse.   In U.S. history, the rise of gender history was similar to and roughly simultaneous with changes in other identity-based fields of study, including African American, Latino/a, Asian American…..”   “In U.S. women’s – and now gender – history,” historians “brought in race (Meyerowitz 2008).”  France has looked at the concept of “America “multiculturalism”” as “a dangerous practice because it grants political standing to groups; it brings representatives of concrete, social concerns into the public (legislative) arena, which ought to be a realm of abstraction where decisions are made on behalf of the whole people, a people whose presumed commonality means that any elected representative represents them all (Scott 2005).”   One side of academic thought contends that “the implication of the ‘grand narratives’ of the Western Experience – nationalism, democracy, capitalism and so on – are the benchmark against which other societies should be measured” while competing thought claims that “no one makes the reverse evaluation (Tosh 2010 p. 296).”


  • Did Joan Scott and “Gender” inspire MBE / WBE Programs that aim to provide opportunities for Women and other “individuals?”


The Women’s Liberation Movement, a timeframe between the late 1960s and early 1970s, led to the advancement of a “feminist approach” to history – Women History (Tosh 2010 p. 275).   The time of this movement, as well as the (last) name “Scott,” has great significance in the State of Virginia.   Four women plaintiffs filed in 1969 “an official complaint” against the University of Virginia claiming the institution “severely discriminates against women in their admissions policies” and “appealed for a change to the policy to allow women to enter the College,” leading to a policy of “full coeducation.”   Only one of the four, Virginia Scott, would ultimately enroll at the institution during Fall Semester 1969 and the following year would mark the admission of “students without regard to sex (“Coeducation” 2009).”   Gender acts as “a constitutive element of social relationships based on perceived differences between the sexes,” and also “a primary way of signifying relationships of power.”   Joan Scott’s “dual definition allowed her to bring together the social scientists who rejected biological determinism and questioned the allegedly natural differences on which it was based and the philosophers, psychoanalysts, and literary critics who suggested that the language of difference sustained Western social and political order.”   In other words, Scott has been identified as one to “bridge the gap between the feminist social scientists who critiqued “gender” and “gender roles” and the feminist literary critics who deconstructed textual representations of sex difference,” writing in a time of “great epistemological turmoil (Meyerowitz 2008).”


Inquiry on the subject (and corresponding seminal document) has been constant and significant.  Over a span of a decade after JSTOR commenced the posting of “scholarly articles in 1997,” readers have accessed “Gender” in excess of 38,000 times and printed more than 25,000 copies (Meyerowitz 2008; “Revisiting” 2008).  For the past five years of this stated time, “Gender” had constantly ranked at the top “as the most frequently viewed and most frequently printed of JSTOR’s AHR articles (Meyerowitz 2008).”   Currently, “Gender” remains the “Most-cited Articles from the last 2 years as of October 1, 2013 (“Most-cited” 2013) while Meyerowitz’s “A History of “Gender”” and Scott’s “Revisiting “Gender”” rank #21 and #26 respectively as “Most-read Articles during September 2013 (“Most-read” 2013).   A simple search of words (not Scott’s journal article) “gender” and “women” within American Historical Review has yielded 6,599 and 18,269 results(or hits) respectfully (“Searching” 2013a; “Searching” 2013b).  Despite its aim to beckon “a deepening of the commitment to the history of women,” there remains feeling that the presentation of gender will diminish “feminist claims” in part to concern that the language “cannot be codified in dictionaries; nor can its meanings be easily assumed or translated.”   In conclusion, Joan Scott in one light makes the claim “that no history of women is complete without a history of “women (Scott 2008).””


  • Is a label for each “superstar” (Virginia and Joan) Scott of a “Queen of Women and Gender History” appropriate considering each continue to exhibit “hits” in the form of either women higher education enrollment or academic inquiry and contribution to knowledge (respectively)?   If Virginia and Joan are at the same awards ceremony, can a voter make an argument for giving a Lifetime Achievement Award to one Scott over the other and who would you choose?





“Coeducation – Here to Stay, part 1.”   (2009).   Breaking and Making Tradition – Women at the University of Virginia.   Albert H. and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA.


“George Strait – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.”   (2013).   Wikipedia,

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Strait>  (October 11, 2013).


“Maryland Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs.”   (2013).  Office of Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, <http://goma.maryland.gov/Pages/home.aspx> (October 11, 2013).


“MBE Program Overview.”   (2013).   Prince George’s County, Maryland,

<http://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/sites/SupplierDevelopment/Services/MBE/Pages/default.aspx> (October 11, 2013).


Meyerowitz, J.   (2008).   “A History of ““Gender.””   American Historical Review, 113(5), 1346-1356.


“Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise.”   (2013).   Baltimore County Maryland Budget and Finance,

<http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/budfin/purchasing/minoritybusiness/index.html> (October 11, 2013).


“Most-Cited Articles from last 2 years as of October 1, 2013.”   (2013).   American Historical Review,

<http://ahr.oxfordjournals.org.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/reports/most-cited> (October 10, 2013).


“Most-Read Articles during September 2013.”   (2013).   American Historical Review,

<http://ahr.oxfordjournals.org.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/reports/most-read> (October 10, 2013).


“Revisiting Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis – Introduction.”   American Historical Review, 113(5), 1344-1345.


Scott, J. W.   (1986).   “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis.”   The American Historical Review, 91(5), 1053-1075.


Scott, J. W.   (2005).   “Symptomatic Politics: The Banning of Islamic Head Scarves in French Public Schools.”   French Politics, Culture and Society, 23(3), 106-127.


Scott, J. W.   (2008).   “Unanswered Questions.”   American Historical Review, 113(5), 1422-1429.


“Searching Journal Content for Gender in Full Text.”   (2013a).   American Historical Review,

<http://ahr.oxfordjournals.org.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/search?fulltext=gender&submit=yes&x=0&y=0> (October 10, 2013).


“Searching Journal Content for Women in Full Text.”   (2013b).   American Historical Review,

<http://ahr.oxfordjournals.org.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/search?fulltext=women&submit=yes&x=12&y=12> (October 10, 2013).


Strait, G. W.   (1995).   Strait Out of the Box: Four Compact Disc Set.   MCA Records, Inc., Universal City, CA.


Tosh, J.   (2010).   The Pursuit of History: Aims, Methods and New Directions in the Study of Modern History, 5th ed.   Pearson Education Limited, Harlow, UK.


“Welcome to the Office of Minority Business Enterprise.”   (2013).   Maryland Department of Transportation. <http://www.mdot.maryland.gov/Office%20of%20Minority%20Business%20Enterprise/HomePage.html> (October 11, 2013).


























HIST 5104: Anathema Discourse

Anathema Discourse

Before the readings this week, I had never read anything written by Paul-Michel Foucault.   I initially started with the Tosh reading and came across reference to Foucault using a language form of “power/knowledge” expressing “discourses of madness, punishment and sexuality (Tosh 2010 p. 197).”   This drew an immediate mental recollection to (a television series of years past) Showtime’s The Tudors, a historical fiction (revisit Cronon from early September) featuring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry the VIII (“The Tudors” 2013).   If you watched this series, do you think “madness, punishment and sexuality” is an appropriate characterization?   Using The Tudors as inspiration may draw (more) questions (than answers) considering the series “had critics and historians frothing at the mouth” with proclamations of “perfectly preposterous” as well as additional commentary from “David Starkey, one of the Grand Deans of Tudor History” simply summed up as “gratuitously awful.”   For argument sake, consider me to be “apprehended by an (series creator Michael Hirst’s) imaginative identification with the people of the past (Tosh 2010 p. 178).”   Let’s now proceed to “The body of the condemned” in Discipline and Punish where Foucault literally wastes no time (can’t even get out of the first paragraph) with a repulsive narrative (Foucault 1995 p. 3):


On a scaffold that will be erected there (NOTE: this direct quote has been edited due to its graphic violence, not suitable for public blogging audiences)…and his ashes thrown to the winds’.


This written account of “public execution (Foucault 1995 p. 10)” with its “torture (Foucault 1995 p. 7)” and “punishment (Foucault p. 8)” remains extremely explicit.   From recollection, The Tudors brought attention to the “spectacle” (of public execution) with limited detail, drawing distinction with this (explicit) written narrative that does not permit “historians to read between the lines (Tosh 2010 p. 182).”  Is it really necessary to get into such sickening (written) detail?   Beyond this, I could not help to feel that (and question why) religion and Christianity have been featured in (such) a violent dialogue – particularly at the beginning of the “body of the condemned.”   Does this not counter the key concept of religion (O’Farrell 2007) where “it has often been calimed (claimed) that he (Foucault) seldom discusses organized religion at any length?”  Perhaps Foucault’s inclusion of religion and Christianity in the text represents one example in the “two meanings” of “history (Tosh 2010 p. iii): It refers both to what actually happened in the past and to the representation of that past in the work of the historian.”   Is it any coincidence that Foucault with his given “double-barreled (“Michel” 2013)” name Paul-Michel has been defined by a career in history?   Centering on Discipline & Punish, he (Foucault 1995 p. 28) acknowledges a historical dynamic:


Kantorowitz gives a remarkable analysis of ‘The King’s Body’: a double body according to the juridical theology of the Middle Ages, since it involves not only the transitory element that is born and dies, but another that remains unchanged by time and is maintained as the physical yet intangible support of the kingdom; around this duality, which was originally close to the Christological model, are organized an iconography, a political theory of monarchy, legal mechanisms that distinguish between as well as link the person of the king and the demands of the Crown, and a whole ritual that reaches its height in the coronation, the funeral and the ceremonies of submission.   At the opposite pole one might imagine placing the body of the condemned man; he too, has calls forth a whole theoretical discourse, not in order to ground the ‘surplus power’ possessed by the person of the sovereign, but in order to code the ‘lack of power’ with which those subjected to punishment are marked.    In the darkest region of the political field the condemned man represents the symmetrical, inverted figure of the king.      

Perhaps, one can dive deeper into religion and Christianity by discovering a link between Henry VIII, a king of the middle ages (“Henry” 2013); Damiens, “the body of the condemned” (Foucault 1995 pp. 3-5); and even Paul-Michel Foucault, a “French philosopher and social historian (Tosh 2010 p. 197).”   Each figure appears to be linked by both involvement with and detachment from Catholicism.   Disassociation, including by name (preference of Michel over Paul), would appear to follow Foucault throughout his life.   “Preferring to classify his thought as a critical history of modernity,” Foucault “rejected the post-structuralist and postmodernist labels later attributed to him (“Michel” 2013)” including being considered “unusual among the founding fathers (Tosh 2010 p. 197).”   A further attempt of reading between the lines this week follows discussion on the influence of symbolism and signs last week.   Hans Holbein the Younger, recognized as “among the great portrait masters” of the 16th century, served as “Kings Painter” to Henry VIII creating works of art that “are a record of the court in the years when Henry was asserting his supremacy over the English church.”   Holbein the Younger created works with “embedded layers of symbolism, allusion and paradox in his art, to the lasting fascination of scholars (“Hans” 2013).”  Why does Clare O’Farrell in the “key concepts” (O’Farrell 2007) work display several portraits of Foucault – is this her way of considering and expressing him (in her mind) as a king of history?


One personal redeeming takeaway from Discipline & Punish is a new awareness of “the two American systems of imprisonment (Foucault 1995 p. 237)” – “Auburn” and “Philadelphia.”   My concept of these two words has (changed forever) been expanded beyond a color (as well as a town and university) and “City of brotherly love (with cheesesteaks)” respectively to now include the negative connotation “isolation (Foucault 1995 p. 238).”   Wow, might this be an example of “language” being “inherently unstable, variable in its meanings over time, and contested in its own time (Tosh 2010 p. 197)?”


Historians…are accustomed to reading…against the grain for implicit meanings.   But underlying their scholarly practice is the belief that the sources can yield up some, at least, of the meaning they held for those who wrote and read them originally.   That is anathema (Defined with this excerpt on Tosh 2010 p. 197: Completely unacceptable.   The term comes from the Roman Catholic Church, where it is used to denote ideas and beliefs that are entirely incompatible with Catholic doctrine) to the deconstructionist, for whom no amount of technical expertise can remove the subjectivity and indeterminacy inherent in the reading of texts.   Deconstructionists offer us instead the pleasure of finding any meanings we like, provided we do not claim authority for any of them.   No amount of scholarship can give us a privileged vantage point.



Bordo, S.   (2012).   “When Fictionalized Facts Matter.”   Chronicle of Higher Education, 58(36), B16-B18.


Foucault, M.   (1995).   Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, 2nd ed.   Random House, Inc., New York, NY.


“Hans Holbein the Younger – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.”   (2013).   Wikipedia,

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Holbein_the_Younger >  (October 4, 2013).


“Henry VIII of England – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.”   (2013).   Wikipedia,

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Foucault>  (October 3, 2013).


“Michel Foucault – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.”   (2013).   Wikipedia,

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Foucault>  (October 3, 2013).


O’Farrell, C.   (2007).   “Michel-foucault.com.”   Key Concepts,

 <http://www.michel-foucault.com/concepts/ >  (September 27, 2013).


“The Tudors – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.”   (2013).   Wikipedia,

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tudors>  (October 3, 2013).


Tosh, J.   (2010).   The Pursuit of History: Aims, Methods and New Directions in the Study of Modern History, 5th ed.   Pearson Education Limited, Harlow, UK.

HIST 5104 – A Thick Description Responding to Darnton and Geertz

A Thick Description Responding to Darnton and Geertz

This week’s readings, particularly starting with those authored by Darnton and Chartier, conjure up thoughts on a movie series I grew up with and continue to watch today…..James Bond.   In fact, I recall the “Trademark White Cat” of Bond “supervillian” (a.k.a arch nemesis) Ernst Stavro Blofeld, making a total of six (6) appearances in the currently twenty-four (24) and counting  (http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/lists/james-bonds-best-and-worst-peter-travers-ranks-all-24-movies-20121109) film series(http://jamesbond.wikia.com/wiki/Ernst_Stavro_Blofeld) :

Could the “Cat” be, as Chartier (1985 pp. 683-684) put it, a means for a “historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic form by means of which men communicate, perpetuate and develop their knowledge about and attitudes towards life”?  Is the “Cat” in the Bond series “of three sorts: social…, festive…, and symbolic (Chartier 1985 p. 685)”?   Additionally, one may be able to argue the Bond series of “endowing the cat with multiple significance (p. 685)” through conveying a symbol of female sexuality in addition to the animal as “an incarnation of devil (Blofeld’s “buddy” pet).”   Honor Blackman, pictured below (source – IMDb.com), plays Ms. Galore (with a suggestive “pet” (first) name) in the third Bond (1964) film Goldfinger.   Ms. Blackman’s casting

Blackman 1964 imdb paint

(and name that comes with it) in the movie appeared to be a risk in the day for the actress, (for starters) considering her given (first) name is “Honor.”   This may tie-in with Darnton’s thought of “insubstantial as it may seem today, this joking was a risky business in the eighteenth century” (and might be in the twentieth century as well) with “the risk” being “part of the joke (Darnton 1984 p. 15).”  What did Blackman’s parents (as well as family and friends) think when she was casted in the movie (Were they disgusted OR laugh about it?)?   Such a given (parental) reaction could be a (one, simple) lead into additional observations and thoughts (Chartier 1985 p. 688):

Nevertheless, it is indisputable that the most pressing question inherent in cultural history today, not only in France but also in France, is that of the different ways in which groups or individuals make use of, interpret, and appropriate the intellectual motifs or cultural forms they share with others.   Hence the complex of shifts in the historian’s task to focus attention on individual careers, to revoke or cast doubt on the canonical separation between the popular and the learned, and to attempt a reconstruction of practices on the basis of representations given of them and objects manipulated in them.   This may not be the “anthropological mode of history” that Darnton aspires to, but it decidedly is not, or is no longer, the cost accountant’s history that he claims is typical of the French.   Darnton’s criticism has two parts, however: he speaks of “overcommitment to the quantification of culture” but also of “undervaluation of the symbolic element in social intercourse.”   We need to think a moment about this “symbolic element” and about the definition of culture as a “symbolic world.”   The notion of symbol is taken in its broadest sense, following Geertz’s definition, as “any object, act, event, quality, or relation which serves as a vehicle for a conception.

Aside from providing potential equal opportunity for the aforementioned theme of “Cat,” Geertz’s Deep Play provides a vivid ethnographic husband and wife account of the “culture in Bali.”   This account focuses on “three characteristics” – “it is interpretive; what it is interpretive of is the flow of social discourse; and the interpreting involved consists in trying to rescue the “said” of such discourse from its perishing occasions and fix it in perusable terms (Geertz 1973 p. 20).”   A “good interpretation of anything – a poem, a person, a history, a ritual, an institution, a society – takes us into the heart of that of which it is the interpretation (Geertz 1973 p. 18).”   The “fight” in the “public square to raise money for a new school” (Geertz 1973 p. 413) can draw one to comparisons of today where (government) jurisdictions promote the lottery (gambling in the eyes of many) for education (teachers’ salaries and benefit) and the “kids.”   In likeness to Geertz’s “fighting,” are there people who question public involvement (even in government run/backed casinos) in the lottery feeling it to be ““primitive,” “backward,” “unprogressive,” and generally unbecoming an ambitious nation (Geertz 1973 p. 414)”?   Yes, and there will also be competing thoughts (in response to this chain of aforementioned negative connotation) on the current role of lottery in (our domestic) society.   Should it come as any surprise that one historian (Tosh 2010 p. 258) finds cultural history as “a contentious field” to be “pursued through competing (psychology, literary theory, and anthropology) bodies of theory”?   Does a (domestic) government-run “lottery (and/or casino)” offer one “semiotic approach to culture,” providing “access to the conceptual world in which our (Bali) subjects live (“The Balinese Way of Life”(Geertz 1973 p. 414)) so that we can, in some extended sense of term, converse with them (Geertz 1973 p. 24)”?   There appears to be “no limit to the scope of cultural history (Tosh 2010 p. 248)” and “the guiding principle is the same: societies, like lives, contain their own interpretations.  One has only to learn how to gain access to them (Geertz 1973 p. 453).”



Chartier, R.   (1985).   “Text, Symbols, and Frenchness.”   The Journal of Modern History, 57(4), 682-695.

Darnton, R.   (1984).   “The Great Cat Massacre.”   History Today, 34(8), 7-15.

Geertz, C.   (1973).   The Interpretation of Cultures.   Basic Books, Inc., New York, NY.

Tosh, J.   (2010).   The Pursuit of History: Aims, Methods and New Directions in the Study of Modern History, 5th ed.   Pearson Education Limited, Harlow, UK.





HIST 5104 – A History Challenge

A History Challenge


I could not help to be drawn to Eley’s self-reflecting preface that recalls arriving to (Balliol College) Oxford as a “late starter (Eley 2008 p. 3)” and “coveting access to a new universe of knowledge (Eley 2008 p. 1).”   While the emphasis of readings appear on Thompson, I am now gravitating to the portrayal of H. J. Dyos (1921-78) identified as a “tireless proselytizer, combining social science rigor with expansively eclectic thematics, whose compass embraced all aspects of the city’s history: its changing political economy and spatial organization; the social histories of the built environment, land sales, mass transit, labor markets, slum dwelling, and suburbanization; and the architectural history and cultural analysis of urban images and representations (Eley 2008 p. 44).”   In a Conversation with Bruce Stave featured in the Journal of Urban History a year after his passing, Dyos’ felt “urban life and its institutions” to be a means of uniting historians of varied interests, some of whom have primary focus on either the “built form of the environment,” “local politics,” or “social change.” Continuing on a course theme of network, Dyos identified “one big challenge confronting young historians is the need to search for a means of connecting and relating both the macro and micro aspects, the process subtending everything and the place in which it is to be found operating.”   What have historians done since this observation to address the aforementioned “challenge?” 


The embracing of a “total history” encourages historians to avoid the “trap” of “seeing the past as compartmentalized into ‘political,’ ‘economic,’ ‘intellectual,’ and ‘social history (Tosh 2010 p. 216).’”  Thompson’s concept of “working class (Thompson 2001 p. 13)” from The Making of the English Working Class (The Making) would appear to have fit into a mold of total (political, cultural and economic) history.   The Making is a “labour movement” centered perspective and compartmentalized into three parts – Exploitation, The Weavers and Class Consciousness.   This perspective remains consistent despite an early proclamation that “no serious scholar is now willing to argue that everything was getting worse, no serious scholar will argue that everything was getting better (Thompson 2001 p. 25).”   Exploitation starts with the “cotton-mill” as a symbol of social revolution and the labour movement (Thompson 2001 p. 11) and continues with working people voicing “grievances (Thompson 2001 p. 20),” being subject to strained relationships with employers (Thompson 2001 p. 17).   A transition to The Weavers conveys what would appear to be a sharp change in tone to greedy, “wage cutting” employers and workers, once proud patrons of “alehouses (Thompson p. 37)” forced individually to do the work of many (Thompson p. 39) and “incapable of refusing any wages however low” to face constant debts (Thompson p. 45).   In closing with Class Consciousness, there appears to be an emphasis on worker self-improvement through the promotion of education within distinct spaces, whether it is a Sunday School (Thompson p. 77), coffee-houses (Thompson p. 79) or (“the culture of”) the theatre (Thompson p. 94).   The printing press and multiplication have been associated with the “machinery of reform (Thompson p. 91),” despite the weights of duties (Thompson p. 86) and prosecution (Thompson p. 87).  The Class Consciousness narrative also appeared to be laced with select echo chambers:


  • “There must be as little Government as possible, and that little must be cheap.    This was close to anarchism, but only in its most negative and defensive sense.   Every man must be free to think, to write, to trade, or to carry a gun.   The first two were his main preoccupation, to the point where the freedom of the press was no longer a means but, in itself, an end (Thompson p. 119).”


  • “The rich and poor, the governors and the governed, have really but one interest” – to form a new co-operative society (Thompson p. 136).


  • “What was at issue was not the machine so much as the profit-motive; not the size of the industrial enterprise but the control of the social capital behind it.   The building craftsman and small masters, who resented control and the lion’s share of the profits passing to master-builders or contractors, did not suppose that the solution lay in a multitude of petty entrepreneurs.   Rather, they wished the co-operation of skills involved in building to be reflected in co-operative social control (Thompson p. 151).”


  • “Of all governments, a government of the middle classes is the most grinding and remorseless (Thompson p. 165).”


  • “The Trades Unions will not only strike for less work, and more wages but they will ultimately abolish wages, become their own masters, and work for each other; labour and capital will no longer be separate but they will be indissolubly joined together in the hands of the workmen and work-women (Thompson p. 172).”


  • It is easy enough to say that this culture was backward-looking or conservative (Thompson p. 174).”


With emphasis at its inception as a “political weapon,” Marxism has been a constant and breathing theory for over 150 years (Tosh 2010 p. 239).   Particularly in Britain, Marxist study has thrived in historiography over the “past forty years” with “diversity” between “culturalism” and “economism,” a “divide” promulgated within “most widely read work of Marxist history ever written in Britain – E. P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class  (Tosh 2010 p. 235).”    Thompson, along with fellow Brits Hobsbawm and Hill as well as Lefebvre in France and the Genovese in the United States, presided over “towering achievements in Marxist history” from the 1960s to the 1980s.   This “galaxy of foreign scholars (Tosh 2010 p. 237)” contrasted in thought with the “majority of economic historians (particularly in Britain and the United States)” who happen to be “non-Marxist (Tosh 2010 p. 233).   Recent forays into Marxism display its “principal” challenge – “its tendency to see culture as secondary: neither nationality nor religion receive their due (Tosh 2010 p. 238).”   Moving forward, it would appear Marxist history will be “unlikely to enjoy such as high profile in the future (Tosh 2010 p. 237).”    


Select Reviews and Other Commentary

With The Making of the English Working Class, E. P. Thompson:


  • “has largely succeeded” and “nearly always in control of the mountains of evidence” and as a result “produced an admirable work of imaginative scholarship (Semmel 1964).”


  • Has written “an engaging and an absorbing book studded with deft narrative, impressively documented, and lucidly argued (Erdman 1964).”


  • “has written out of so thorough a knowledge of the primary and critical sources for this period” with a “combination of human sympathy and scholarly acumen” that “enables him to make sense of documents and episodes hitherto thought opaque, to rediscover the humanity of lives dismissed as blank or stultified (Erdman 1964).”


  • “historian, socialist, poet, campaigner, orator, writer – in his day – of the finest polemical prose of this century, would probably wish to be remembered as the first of these (Hobsbawm 1994).”


  • “rose like a space rocket.   The Making, published in 1963 and written by an adult educator lecturer virtually unknown outside the narrow circles of the old and new intellectual Left, was instantly recognized as a classic and became what was almost certainly the most influential single book of history in the Anglo-Saxon radical ‘60s and ‘70s.   And not only among radicals.    In the 1980s Thompson was the most widely cited twentieth-century historian in the world, according to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index, and one of the 250 most frequently cited authors of all time (Hobsbawn 1994).”


  • Was later critiqued by a “feminist historian” Joan Scott who “acknowledged the significance” of the work while drawing “attention to the problematic status of working-class women” in the book (Koditschek 1997).


  • Acted as a “major formative influence” for Shelia Rowbotham to “go outside the parameters of his book” for “women” to be “integrated” into the “narrative (Koditschek 1997).”
  • And “his works (in The Essential E. P. Thompson) have become important points of reference for many post-1960s American social historians.   Recommended for academic libraries (Lumpkins 2001).”


  • “was (identified in the introduction by Dorothy Thompson as) one of the most influential historians of his generation (Thompson 2001).”


  • “was sniffily dismissed by the Industrial Revolution’s mainstream historians – as I learned in 1968 (Eley 2008).”


  • Made “the first systematic attempt to provide the working class as a whole, as opposed to the trade unions or the co-operative movement, with a heritage and a sense of collective identity.   Thompson’s book remains popular, particularly among those on the political Left, though it is admired across the political divide for clarity of its style and for the humanity of its judgments (Tosh 2010).”


  • AUTHOR’S NOTE – There are currently fifteen (15 – itemized as (12) 5-star, (1) 4-star, (1) 2-star, and (1) 1-star) Customer Reviews (as of September 15th) for The Making of the English Working Class on Amazon.com.



Eley, G.   (2008).   A Crooked Line: From Cultural History to the History of Society, 4th ed.   The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, MI.

Erdman, D. V.   (1964).   “The Making of the English Working Class by E. P. Thompson.”  Victorian Studies, 8(2), 183-185.

Hobsbawm, E.   (1994).   “E. P. Thompson.”   Radical History Review, 58, 157-159.

Koditschek, T.   (1997).   “The Gendering of the British Working Class.”   Gender & History, 9(2), 333-363.

Lumpkins, C. L.   (2001).   “The Essential E. P. Thompson.”   Library Journal, 126(2), 109.

Semmel, B.   (1964).   “The Making of the English Working Class by E. P. Thompson.”   The American Historical Review, 70(1), 123-124.

Thompson, E. P.   (2001).   The Essential E. P. Thompson, D. Thompson, ed., The New Press, New York, NY.

Tosh, J.   (2010).   The Pursuit of History: Aims, Methods and New Directions in the Study of Modern History, 5th ed.   Pearson Education Limited, Harlow, UK.



HIST 5104 – Legitimacy with the “Three Domains of Activity” (Part 3) and References (1, 2 and 3)

Legitimacy with the “Three Domains of Activity” – Part 3

Historians this century will utilize “digital forms” of communication to transform “both argument and narrative.”  However, contemporary scholars may express concern over what “counts” as scholarship in the digital realm (Dorn 2012).   This leads to an inquiry on addressing the legitimacy of digital work in relation to the three domains of activity: research, teaching and service.   Scholarship, a subsection of work, mandates the requirements of 1). A product of original research; 2). An argument “situated in a pre-existing conversation among scholars;” 3). Public and subject to peer review; and 4). Accessible to “public response (Kelly 2010).”   Numerous institutions evaluate a scholar’s body of work for tenure and promotion based on “single authorship (Scheinfeldt 2010)” and a relative “impact” on the field both domestically and internationally.  A limited amount of individuals are actually evaluating a scholar’s impact (Cohen et al. 2010) which points back to the previously mentioned “crisis in scholarly publishing (Unsworth 2010).”   An online series of lectures and course website would act as digital work that falls in the teaching domain (Kelly 2010).   Blogging, another digital medium in likeness to a “newspaper or diary-like rhythm of discrete chronological posts,” escapes the scholarly mandate of (established) peer review while enabling “collaboration and discussion” within crowd-sourcing – “a forum for validation of advice” that does not contribute to tenure (Cummings and Jarrett 2012).   Does digital work of blogging have the capacity for scholarship or appear more appropriate in a service domain?   A “guide on the side (Part 2)” would appear to be an appropriate role for service as opposed to the “sage on the stage” for teaching and research.   Do your thoughts correspond with the academy on where the domains of activity align with digital work?   Regardless on the outcome of this thought, perhaps those seeking scholarly pursuits can heed the counsel of one author (Kirshenbaum et al. 2010):

A mentor once told me that the key to being a successful scholar was to become completely obsessed with a historical topic, to feel the urge to read and learn everything about an event, an era, or a person, in short, to be become so knowledgeable, energetic, and even obsessed with your subject matter that you become what others immediately recognize as a trusted, valuable expert.


References – Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

Black, C., and Sample, M.   (2010).   “Hacking Scholarship: Voices: Sharing One’s Research.”

Hacking the Academy: A Book Crowdsourced in One Week, D. Cohen and T. Scheinfeldt, eds., <http://www.digitalculture.org/hacking-the-academy> (Sept. 6, 2013).

Cohen, D., Ramsey, S., and Fitzpatrick, K.   (2010).   “Hacking Scholarship: Open Access and Scholarly Values: A Conversion.”   Hacking the Academy: A Book Crowdsourced in One Week, D. Cohen and T. Scheinfeldt, eds., <http://www.digitalculture.org/hacking-the-academy> (Sept. 6, 2013).

Cohen, D., and Scheinfeldt, T.   (2010).   “Introductions: Preface.”   Hacking the Academy: A Book Crowdsourced in One Week, D. Cohen and T. Scheinfeldt, eds., <http://www.digitalculture.org/hacking-the-academy> (Sept. 6, 2013).

Cummings, A. S., and Jarrett, J.   (2012).   “Only Typing? Blogging and the Academy (Spring 2012 version).”  Writing History in the Digital Age, J. Dougherty and K. Nawrotzki, eds., <http://www.writinghistory.trincoll.edu> (Sept. 6, 2013).

Dorn, S.   (2012).   “Is (Digital) History More Than an Argument about the Past? (Spring 2012 version).”  Writing History in the Digital Age, J. Dougherty and K. Nawrotzki, eds., <http://www.writinghistory.trincoll.edu> (Sept. 6, 2013).

Fitzpatrick, K.   (2010).   “Hacking Scholarship: Open Access Publishing.”   Hacking the Academy: A Book Crowdsourced in One Week, D. Cohen and T. Scheinfeldt, eds., <http://www.digitalculture.org/hacking-the-academy> (Sept. 6, 2013). 

Guldi, J.   (2010).   “Hacking Scholarship: Reinventing the Academic Journal.”   Hacking the Academy: A Book Crowdsourced in One Week, D. Cohen and T. Scheinfeldt, eds., <http://www.digitalculture.org/hacking-the-academy> (Sept. 6, 2013).

Jackson, J. B.   (2010).   “Hacking Scholarship: Getting Yourself Out of the Business in Five Easy Steps.”  Hacking the Academy: A Book Crowdsourced in One Week, D. Cohen and T. Scheinfeldt, eds., <http://www.digitalculture.org/hacking-the-academy> (Sept. 6, 2013).

Kelly, M.   (2010).   “Hacking Scholarship: Making Digital Scholarship Count.”   Hacking the Academy: A Book Crowdsourced in One Week, D. Cohen and T. Scheinfeldt, eds., <http://www.digitalculture.org/hacking-the-academy> (Sept. 6, 2013).

Kirschenbaum, M. G., Sample, M., and Cohen, D.  (2010).   “Hacking Scholarship: Voices: Blogging.”  Hacking the Academy: A Book Crowdsourced in One Week, D. Cohen and T. Scheinfeldt, eds., <http://www.digitalculture.org/hacking-the-academy> (Sept. 6, 2013).

Madsen-Brooks, L.   (2012).   “I nevertheless am a historian”: Digital Historical Practice and Malpractice around Black Confederate Soldiers (Spring 2012 version).”  Writing History in the Digital Age, J. Dougherty and K. Nawrotzki, eds., <http://www.writinghistory.trincoll.edu> (Sept. 6, 2013).

O’Malley, M.   (2010).   “Hacking Scholarship: Reading and Writing.”   Hacking the Academy: A Book Crowdsourced in One Week, D. Cohen and T. Scheinfeldt, eds., <http://www.digitalculture.org/hacking-the-academy> (Sept. 6, 2013).

Parry, D.   (2010).   “Hacking Scholarship: Burn the Boats/Books.”   Hacking the Academy: A Book Crowdsourced in One Week, D. Cohen and T. Scheinfeldt, eds., <http://www.digitalculture.org/hacking-the-academy> (Sept. 6, 2013).

Scheinfeldt, T.   (2010).   “Hacking Scholarship: Theory, Method, and Digital Humanities.”   Hacking the Academy: A Book Crowdsourced in One Week, D. Cohen and T. Scheinfeldt, eds., <http://www.digitalculture.org/hacking-the-academy> (Sept. 6, 2013).

Suiter, T.   (2010).   “Introductions: Why “Hacking?””   Hacking the Academy: A Book Crowdsourced in One Week, D. Cohen and T. Scheinfeldt, eds., <http://www.digitalculture.org/hacking-the-academy> (Sept. 6, 2013).

Tanaka, S.   (2012).   “Pasts in a Digital Age (Spring 2012 version).”   Writing History in the Digital Age, J. Dougherty and K. Nawrotzki, eds., <http://www.writinghistory.trincoll.edu> (Sept. 6, 2013).

Unsworth, J.   (2010).   “Hacking Scholarship: The Crisis of Audience and the Open Access Solution.”  Hacking the Academy: A Book Crowdsourced in One Week, D. Cohen and T. Scheinfeldt, eds., <http://www.digitalculture.org/hacking-the-academy> (Sept. 6, 2013).

Weinberger, D.   (2011).   Too Big to Know.   Basic Books, New York, NY.

Wolff, R. S.   (2012).   “The Historian’s Craft, Popular Memory, and Wikapedia (Spring 2012 version).” Writing History in the Digital Age, J. Dougherty and K. Nawrotzki, eds., <http://www.writinghistory.trincoll.edu> (Sept. 6, 2013).


HIST 5104 – Bottomlessness Canyon (Part 1) and Dealing with Turbulence (Part 2)

A Bottomlessness Canyon of the Past – Part 1

Robert Darnton conveys the historian’s challenge to convey “the bottomlessness of the past” (Weinberger 2011 p. 95) and remains one among several proposing the Digital Public Library of America.   The concept aims to respond to instances similar to the Harvard University library system where a minimal amount of “physical holdings circulate every year (Weinberger 2011 p. 75).”  Such circumstances lead to a “crisis in scholarly publishing” with a challenge of “audience: nobody’s reading these books – not even colleagues in the disciplines, much less students, or the general public (Unsworth 2010).”  The Internet projects to house “what’s currently in libraries” with the exception of exclusive collections (Weinberger 2011 p. 175).   Beyond being a potential file cabinet for outgoing scholars’ work (Black and Sample 2010), the library paints a visual of a building that remains filled with rows of shelving full of books.   To remain “relevant,” the academy will need to fully acknowledge “that the book is no longer the main mode of knowledge transmission.”   Librocentricism, “a book-biased way of thinking,” inspires an “epistemological framework for knowledge, not just a material one.”   Unlike books, the Internet reveals that information is “anything but scarce (Parry 2010)” and would appear to stake a claim as “the largest repository of data” with a mission to “collect, categorize and disseminate information to better understand this ever-expanding world (Tanaka 2012).”

The Internet acts as an “open environment,” a place “where gatekeeping as we’ve known it doesn’t (and can’t) work (Kelly 2010).”   Near the turn to the 21st century, a select group of affluent commercial publishers obtained (gobbled up in Hokie language) “most of the top journals in many fields” and now are willing to grant access upon receiving financial compensation.    Less fortunate institutions both domestically and located in developing nations are restricted without “access to the most important research being done in what have come to be known as the STEM fields (Fitzpatrick 2010).”   Concern for “more progressive, sustainable, and open ways (Jackson 2010)” should be extended to educators seeking “better teaching of history in elementary and middle schools (Dorn 2012).”  Journal administrators are assuming the role of curator, not presenter of the aforementioned important research (Kelly 2010).   These publishers also maintain the “traditions of peer review (Cummings and Jarrett 2012),” a “filter-then-publish model (Parry 2010).”   Academic writing, through books and journal articles, has been “remarkably resistant to technological change (O’Malley 2010).”  The Internet moves in “reverse – publish-then-filter,” encouraging a broad spectrum of conversation (Parry 2010).   User proficiency in filtering increases the “value” of the Internet and enhances navigation (Weinberger 2011 p. 184).   Due to an apparent inability to adapt, the “publishing system” appears ripe for “economic collapse (Suiter 2010).”  Counter to concern for access and in keeping with “links from ten years ago” that no longer remain valid (Cummings and Jarrett 2012), Mayer-Schönberger suggests a concept in Delete where information remains tied to “user-set expiration dates (Tanaka 2012).”


Dealing with Turbulence – A Decision-Maker and “Guide on the Side” – Part 2

“What we have in common is not knowledge about which we agree but a shared world about which we will always disagree (Weinberger 2011 p. 182)” and the Internet reveals through “echo-chambers” to observers “how much there is to know and how deeply we disagree about everything (Weinberger 2011 p. 81).”   Interpreters typically demand “a single, correct understanding of an event, or the past.”   As an alternative, a fruitful history will entail “a heterogeneity of interpretation, the diversity of practices, the contestations, and the processes and negotiations by which people have dealt with such differences – turbulence (Tanaka 2012).”  “Diversity of perspective” (Weinberger 2011 p. 75; Parry 2010) and “heuristics” (Weinberger 2011 p. 75) enhance dialogue.   This remains contradictory to an approach that would require decision-making “when a network cannot come to an agreement,” such as the “ultimate arbitration committee-of-one, Jimmy Wales.”   The Wikapedia entrepreneur confesses that the majority of “his decisions are either essentially coin-tosses when the community is evenly split or judge-like applications of principles that all in the community accept (Weinberger 2011 p. 164).”

Metadata may provide an alternative to this decision-making.   Humans “curate collections,” “rate items,” “leave comments,” and “write reviews.”   Amazon fosters “a special truth” by enticing “visitors with other items they might be interested in” by examining information “about what people click on and what they buy individually and in aggregate (Weinberger 2011 p. 186).   The use of this history would appear to respond to Poe’s stance of “wisdom of the crowds” fails because “the crowds are not wise (Madsen-Brooks 2012).”  It should come as no surprise that the power of the Internet has moved an increasing amount of academics “away from thinking big thoughts to forging new tools, methods, materials, techniques, and modes of work (Scheinfeldt 2010).”  Whether expert or amateur for that matter, “enthusiasts” are capable of creating worthwhile historiography (Madsen-Brooks 2012).   As a result, historians are not the “sole arbiters (Wolff 2012)” and should consider abdicating “being authorities (Parry 2010)” also known as a “sage on the stage” in favor of “the guide on the side” in “digital space (Madsen-Brooks 2012).”   These academics have “an unprecedented opportunity to make our expertise available (Wolff 2012)” and act as “curators” of digital space “who keep things up to date, clean, host, point, and aggregate knowledge (I would call this a decision-marker) rather than just those who are responsible for producing new knowledge (Parry 2010).”   Participation requires avoidance of the “long-form argument” such as Darwin’s On the Origins of Species as “dense writing deters an audience and is hard to produce often enough to keep a blog fresh (Cumming and Jarrett 2012).”  AUTHOR’S NOTE: I can appreciate this last sentence.


More to come…………




HIST 5104 – Flux Capacitor

Going “back in time” became a connecting theme for me between this week’s readings of storytelling (Cronon), access to information (Tosh) and network (Weinberger).  Outside the realm of reality, time travel has been featured in two late twentieth century (i.e. the eighties – nearly 30 years ago) films The Terminator (“The Terminator” 1984) and Back to Future (“Back” 1985).   The latter fictional (not saying historical fiction) “story” featured a teenager in present day (1985) sent back to the past (thirty years to 1955) and then back to 1985 in a DeLorean (car) time machine equipped with a “flux capacitor” requiring electricity of 1.21 gigawatts (giga = 1 billion).  Emphasis on the “good story” Back to the Future acts as simply one attempt to bring together a select (Weinberger) “network of people and ideas” between these three readings.   Within the (Cronon) “storytelling” piece, Steven Spielberg, who happened to be the producer of Back to the Future, spoke on “historians and creators of historical fiction” during the 149th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address a few days after the release of his film Lincoln (see Holzer in The Chronicle of Higher Education 11-30-12):


“We can’t remember everything,” Spielberg reminded the audience. “History forces us to acknowledge the limits of memory … It tells us that memory is imperfect, no matter how much of the past we’ve covered … It’s not the job, and in fact it’s a betrayal of the job, of a historian to promise perfect and complete recall of the past, to promise memory that abolishes loss.”  “One of the jobs of art,” he added, “is to go to the impossible places that other disciplines, like history, must avoid.”


Without a capacity for time travel, my simple recollection of looking back (approximately) thirty years ago evokes some immediate thoughts that lack external context – elementary school, soccer, comic books, G.I. Joe, Legos and trains to name a few.  What means do I have at my disposal to consider the context of a past “original thinker,” whether it spans 30 years or some other prescribed timeframe?   Primary (original sources) and secondary sources require careful historian evaluation (Tosh p. 91).   Tosh’s comments on public access to information, particularly in the institutional arena, caught attention.   Domestically, the Freedom of Information Act of 1975 permits “wider access” for historians and other members to public records.   Historically, public officials, as in the case of Great Britain, have relied on a “closed period” to place documents with information deemed secure under lock and key.  This “period” had been quantified (by Great Britain) in 1958 at “fifty years” and has seen a reduction among various jurisdictions over time to a current consistent timeframe for the “liberalization of access to public records” of not less than “thirty” years (Tosh pp. 112-113).   As a result, a closed period requires the historian to consider the importance of “context” in attempting to comprehend thoughts from the “original thinker in the past (Tosh p. 132).”


Weinberger draws attention to improving access to data with mention of Data.gov, a website fueled by President Obama’s (first) executive order “Transparency and Open Government.” This site, identified as a “data commons” where government data now becomes accessible, had 64 million hits and 168,000 (compared with 47 at the start) datasets within nine months of inception (Weinberger p 36).   In keeping with exponential growth, the amount of information consumed by Americans on the Internet during 2008 appears beyond comprehension – 3.6 zettabytes (a billion gigabytes times a thousand) of data (Weinberger p. 7).  This estimate has increased from 0.3 zettabytes two years prior (Weinberger p. 8).   The concept of “zettabytes” draws me back to the (quantity of) stated electricity (1.21 gigabytes) for the “flux capacitor.”   A “whole deep sea” (Weinberger p. 13) of information is out there.  A challenge lies in establishing and maintaining access to the necessary (plentiful and pertinent) data as studies continue.   With its volume of a trillion pages (Weinberger p. 7 and p. 12), the Internet houses over 133 million blogs where approximately 10,000 are “abandoned” daily (Weinberger p. 7) as well as other digital revolution opportunities (Cronon) including websites, YouTube and social media.   Based on this volume, should it be any surprise that Weinberger has advocated discussion on the “filter” in response to both “too much bad stuff” and “too much good stuff (Weinberger p. 12)?”   There may be more to statement at the conclusion of Back to the Future from the (fictional) creator of time travel Dr. Emmett Brown – “Where we are going, we don’t need roads.”   Was this quote prophetic towards the future of (as Weinberger put it) “the network of people and ideas?”   Is the “Internet” (Weinberger) the flux capacitor and (any one of the four) “digital revolution” (Cronon) opportunities the DeLorean (“vehicle”) time machine?   Will an archive of these mediums (opportunities) today provide needed context to the historian of the future (say thirty years from now)?  In other words, would one expect to have a “special collections” archive for much of the (digital) history created today?   Where do search engines (such as Google) fit: the flux capacitor or the time machine?