Monthly Archives: October 2009

October 29, 2009, 2:17 pm


In these times of budget cuts, enforced furloughs, and layoffs on the one hand, and higher student fees on the other, it’s important for faculty and staff in higher education to evince an appropriate awareness of this atmosphere of austerity…. oh, you must be joking.

Spotted at a local community college, so don’t start in about the privileges of the UC….

October 29, 2009, 7:48 am

It’s Quiet. Yeah, Too Somnolent.

I’m hoping that Amazon doesn’t actually put this into action:

Method and apparatus for programmatically substituting synonyms into distributed text content. A synonym substitution mechanism may programmatically replace selected words in textual data with synonyms for the selected words. The modification to an excerpt performed by the synonym substitution mechanism may not significantly alter the meaning of the excerpt to a human reader. By replacing one or more selected words in an excerpt with synonyms for the words, illicit copies of the excerpt may be recognized by comparing a copy of the excerpt to the original. Particular permutations of synonym substitutions may be provided in excerpts to particular requestors. The particular permutations may be recorded and used to determine a requestor as the source of a copy of the excerpt. Synonym substitution may make programmatic excerpt…

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October 28, 2009, 11:25 am

Method as identity.

Is it not ill-advised that historians often identify ourselves by method as well as, or even rather than, by subject of interest? I.e., we often say “I’m a social historian” or “I’m a cultural historian” as well as or rather than, “I’m a historian of the US South.”

I think this way of talking and thinking is based on a faulty analogy to shop labor. It’s a bit like saying, “I am a lathe operator.” Except, the thing is, it’s fine to be a lathe operator if you’re a good lathe operator; there’s plenty of objects that need lathing and there will be for the foreseeable future.

The same is not true for history. In history, people are seized by methodological enthusiasms; it may suddenly seem like the lathe is the way to go, and there are projects that demand expertise in the lathe. So you train up on the lathe, and you lathe away, and your project’s done, and …

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October 27, 2009, 3:24 pm


Today this blog is two. For those of you who want more reminiscing, here’s the post on the occasion of its first birthday, which answers some FAQs.

October 27, 2009, 11:44 am

Where you stand depends on where it sits.

Robert Arnesen’s egghead sculptures are a prominent feature of the UC Davis campus. I learned only recently that one was duplicated for an installation in San Francisco.

Reproductions of Arneson’s Yin and Yang Eggheads appear along the Embarcadero, situated together just east of the Justin Herman Plaza fountain, across from the Port of San Francisco Ferry Building. The sculpture was dedicated in mid-December. A plaque recognizes it as a reproduction of one in a series of five acrylic-on-bronze sculptures commissioned for UC Davis.

A native of Benicia, Arneson taught ceramics at UC Davis from 1962 to 1991. His Egghead sculptures were created for specific campus locations and were installed during 1991-94. The original Yin and Yang Eggheads sit outside the UC Davis fine arts complex courtyard, where they were positioned by Arneson himself shortly before his death in 1992.

The eggheads…

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October 27, 2009, 11:01 am

Worst. Marketing. Ever.


October 25, 2009, 9:54 am

America’s America.

The current print edition of the American Prospect has a center pullout section on Inequality Goes to College. It’s worth reading, though hardly cheerful. And the Golden State is all over it.


October 24, 2009, 1:41 pm

Agincourt & Iraq

This is a much more nuanced view of the state of the military history field than earlier efforts

The work, which has received both glowing praise and sharp criticism from other historians in the United States and Europe, is the most striking of the revisionist accounts to emerge from a new science of military history. The new accounts tend to be not only more quantitative but also more attuned to political, cultural and technological factors, and focus more on the experience of the common soldier than on grand strategies and heroic deeds.

More, it actually connects that new form of history (traditionally identified as the “New Military History” and starting with John Keegan’s The Face of Battle) with larger issues, both historical and present. If I was being particularly tetchy, I might note that the article is behind the times–Keegan’s book came out in the 1970s–and that military…

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October 24, 2009, 10:46 am


I’d missed this till today:

A Russian historian investigating the fate of Germans imprisoned in the Soviet Union during the second world war has been arrested, in the latest apparent clampdown on historical research into the Stalin era by the Russian authorities.

Mikhail Suprun was detained last month by officers from Russia’s security services. They searched his apartment and carried off his entire personal archive. He has now been charged with violating privacy laws and, if convicted, faces up to four years in jail.

Suprun had been researching Germans sent to Russia’s Arctic gulags. A professor of history at Arkhangelsk’s Pomorskiy university, his study included German prisoners of war captured by the Red Army as well as Russian-speaking ethnic Germans, many from southern Russia, deported by Stalin. Both groups ended up in Arkhangelsk camps.

“I had been planning to write two books….

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October 22, 2009, 1:41 pm

Completely unlike Ivy life today.

Plucked from one of Delbanco’s essays.

In 1912, Owen Johnson’s enduringly popular novel (most recently reprinted in 2003) Stover at Yale gave a picture of Ivy life as a gladiatorial contest among alpha males who, by beating out their rivals for a spot on the team or in the club, learned to achieve “victory…on the broken hopes of a comrade,” and went on to rule the nation.

You’re coming to the talk, right?

October 21, 2009, 9:57 am

In crisis, I tell you.

Notes for an event tomorrow.

Of course the answer is “because of the Sokal hoax”.1

1Joking! The Sokal hoax is a dismissible sideshow.2
2Joking! The Sokal hoax actually does touch on important elements of the crisis. But it has nothing to do with history, which isn’t in the humanities.3
3Joking! Sort of.

October 20, 2009, 2:14 pm

How we do.

Ari and I are teaching the methods and philosophy seminar for incoming graduate students, all fields of history. If you’re interested, please have a look below the fold to see what we’ve assigned.


October 19, 2009, 12:35 pm

Why Olympia Snowe Can Do What She Wants, Pretty Much

Because she’s just basically popular in Maine:

Fascinating numbers for Olympia Snowe. Her approval rating with Democrats is 25 points higher than with Republicans- in fact her approval numbers with Democrats are better than they are for many of the Democratic Senators we’ve polled on across the country this year.

Like Ben Nelson on the Democratic side, she’s a GOP Senator in a state dominated by the other party. If the Republicans try to get rid of her via the primary, they’ll lose the seat, probably permanently.

(Hat-tip to Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire)

October 17, 2009, 5:31 pm

Reductio ad abdomen.

October 16, 2009, 9:42 am

This item is not eligible for free shipping.

Milk! 5 left at $69.99!

The reviews are priceless.