Monthly Archives: December 2011

December 30, 2011, 2:05 pm

I was checking a description of Maxim’s in 1919. Why?

The New York Public Library has a historic menu collection online.

December 30, 2011, 1:28 pm

The face of the cut.

One day last December she was at work when she failed to recognize someone she should have. “My eyesight isn’t very good and I’m not very good at facial recognition,” she explains. “She had a proper go at me in the lift.”

So Emily decided to kill herself.

“Because someone shouted at you in the lift?” I ask.

Jon Ronson on the impact of one, small public-sector cut.

December 30, 2011, 1:16 pm

As Tevye would say, “on the other hand …”

Some excellent advice.

  • It is best to go on the job market your last ABD year, so that you’ll appear fresh AND it’s preferable to have your degree in hand and a few years of teaching experience.
  • One should publish aggressively in field-leading journals and seek to publish one’s dissertation as soon as practicable in order to stand out AND it’s best to go the more traditional route and hold back on publishing one’s research so as to save it for the tenure probationary period.
  • One should cultivate as wide a teaching competence as possible so as to serve a variety of departmental needs AND one needs to have a clear, narrow specialization.
  • One should jump at the opportunity to do adjunct work in order to stay in the field and develop one’s teaching portfolio AND one should be cautious about doing adjunct work lest it leave you with the taint of being a second-rater.

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December 30, 2011, 8:54 am

I May Have To Reconsider George Washington

Who knew he was still available for comment?

Breaking a 211-year media silence, retired Army Gen. George Washington appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday to speak out against many aspects of the way the Iraq war has been waged.

The first picture is worth the whole article.

December 26, 2011, 4:46 pm

Some notes on comparing Lincoln and FDR.

Partly for fun, partly to make a point, I’m writing this post without referring to any texts, either online or on paper. Which should explain, if not excuse, any paraphrases or errors. The point may or may not become clear by the end of the post. This is not going to be an “FDR is better than Lincoln” post; you have been warned.

December 25, 2011, 3:22 pm

Redeemed from fire by fire.

Not the right silhouette for me, but the only one I could find.

There’s far too brief a review of Bodnar and Dower’s new(ish) books in the TLS.

December 22, 2011, 1:15 pm

The Greatest General in American History, Part II

Part I here.

Now, onto more specific evaluations. (Deep breath) I’m going to eliminate Washington. He is the greatest American statesman, for what he did as a general and leader in the Revolution and what he did as a Founding Father and first President.* As to being the greatest general, he made a number of spectacularly correct decisions during the Revolution, but he was nearly zero for his career in terms of battlefield victories. That’s just too much to overcome.

800px Winfield Scott in National Portrait Gallery IMG 4528

Next, Winfield Scott. Scott has a remarkably strong case for being the greatest American general. In fact, I’m not sure he wasn’t. In double fact, I think I would say he was the greatest American general in career terms. He started spectacularly well in the War of 1812 (“Those are regulars, by God!“), continued impressively in the Mexican-American War (his capture of Mexico City made both the Mexicans and…

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December 22, 2011, 10:35 am

This history blog has its own history.

December 21, 2011, 8:29 pm

The Greatest General In American History, Part I

General Gates   General Horatio Gates   Revolutionary War   Rare  4x4    150

So the comments on this post got me thinking. Who was the best general in American History? It’s been several centuries, the US has fought lots of wars, and we have lots of famous generals.

So, who is it? Well, first, a disclaimer. As a historian I hate “who is the best…” or ranking lists of all kinds. History isn’t a sport, and it’s not organized like one. Generals don’t often get to fight against one another and certainly generals from the same countries rarely do. They fight in different eras with different resources and different enemies. Generals fight the wars in front of them, not the wars they want and certainly not a standardized war that would allow us to dial out personal differences. That makes rankings unfair, no matter how they are organized.

Nonetheless, it’s the end of the year when rankings flourish like kudzu, and I’m going to do it. Or, at least, I’m …

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December 21, 2011, 8:29 am

You Canna Have Our FREEDOM!

Representative Phil Gingrey (R-GA), quoted in Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire:

“This is a Braveheart moment. You, Mr. Speaker, are our William Wallace.”

He’s aware of what happened to William Wallace, right?

December 20, 2011, 1:11 pm

It’s called “in defense of history,” not “in defense of the historical profession.”

I’ve taught the introductory historiography and methods seminar to incoming graduate students three times, and each time I’ve assigned Richard Evans’s Telling Lies About Hitler. Originally, the point in assigning it was to draw a line beyond which respectable historians must not go; together with Ari I had picked a number of other books that showed acceptable, even laudable, creativity in interpreting and extrapolating from sources – Return of Martin Guerre, Unredeemed Captive, others – and I wanted one that showed an unarguably inexcusable abuse of sources, so that we might know the difference. And what better choice than a tale about Holocaust denial?


December 18, 2011, 9:45 am


Is there some name for the intellectual maneuver of waiting till an opponent is dead, then insisting he must really have agreed with you all along? “Respect,” I’m sure, is not it.

December 14, 2011, 3:08 pm

Random History Major

Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers majored in history (with, apparently, a 3.60 GPA) and thus was able to answer a Civil War question effectively (starting at 54 seconds in):

[brightcove vid=1326328324001&exp3=1877543594&surl=,AAAAAG_pBMo~,kVIkQYQQ-Ixdy820EHHvL-Qg0GY6jd0o&w=486&h=412]

We like Aaron Rodgers.

(h/t to Of Battlefields and Bibliophiles)

December 14, 2011, 8:29 am

Bandit Season

One of the most fascinating parts of researching the Boxer Rebellion was the discovery of just how obstreperous ordinary Chinese can be. “Bandit season” (the bandit groups usually included lots of ordinary folks) was well known, so much that in 1932 an English minister prayed “for our preservation during the approaching bandit season, which opens like grouse-shooting about the middle of August, when the millet (perfect cover for bandits) is full grown.”

The pugnacity continues:

Reached by phone on Wednesday, residents said throngs of people were staging noisy rallies by day outside Wukan’s village hall, while young men with walkie-talkies employed tree limbs to obstruct roads leading to the town. Not far away, heavily armed riot police were maintaining their own roadblocks. The siege has prevented deliveries from reaching the town of 20,000, but residents said they had no problem…

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December 12, 2011, 12:05 pm

What is an anthology?

Helen Vendler’s review of the Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry, edited by Rita Dove, is quite a piece of work. (It’s been widely noted in the blogosphere, e.g. here, by I think the same Anderson seen commenting on likeminded blogs.)

Dove’s response is well worth reading. But not having been gored directly, the rest of us may wonder if Vendler hasn’t just missed the point. Do we expect of an anthology that it will supply a complete and final list of the “poems to remember?” That’s from the headline, but it does reflect Vendler’s thinking –

No century in the evolution of poetry in English ever had 175 poets worth reading, so why are we being asked to sample so many poets of little or no lasting value?

How flatly she equates “lasting value” with being “worth reading”! For me, these are pretty different categories –  especially for recent work, part of whose…

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