The battle over U.S. military history: intellectual limpieza de sangre versus intellectual hybridity

rowlandsonbogusSome of you may remember a few weeks ago when I wrote a response to Bob Neer’s article in Aeon, “The U.S. military is everywhere, except the history books,”  arguing that military history courses were in danger of disappearing from American university curricula.  Paul Huard, a writer for War is Boring, picked up the conversation and has written a nice summary of our points of view in “The Battle over U.S. Military History.”

Interestingly, both in Huard’s article and in recent private correspondence between me and Neer,  we probably agree on more than we disagree.  Neer is not interested in strict definitions as to who qualifies as a military historian, and neither am I.  (Nor am I interested in imposing purity tests on historians whose work engages women’s history, the history of gender and sexuality, or North American colonial history.  I’m a big-tent kind of gal.)

Check out Huard’s article, which seeks to bring us all to a truce in which we agree on the importance of both military history and understanding the role of warfare in North American society over the past 400 years or so.  And yet some military historians seem very determined to draw boundaries and police the borders of their discipline in ways that seem to me to be distinctly against the mainstream of historical practice. Continue reading

Happy Easter/Pesach/Spring Equinox/_your festival here_! Enjoy an ad-free holiday at Historiann.

cowgirlhotstuffThe whole gang here at Historiann HQ wish you and yours a quiet, ad-free holiday of your choice this spring. I’ve had such an overwhelmingly positive reaction about my decision not to provide content for free at sites that are run by advertising dollars that I thought today I’d also direct your attention to other ad-free and content-rich history blogs.  Most of these are group blogs, except for The Way of Improvement Leads Home, which is run by the indefatigable John Fea of Messiah College:

  • Tropics of Meta: historiography for the masses!  Mostly modern U.S. history, California history, media studies, race, and gender.
  • Nursing Clio:  a group blog on gender, sexuality, and the history of medicine
  • U.S. Intellectual History:  big-tent intellectual history as it’s written and taught by junior and emerging scholars.
  • African American Intellectual History:  same as above, with a focus on black intellectuals from the eighteenth century to the present.
  • Religion in American History:  a group blog on the obvious, with contributors who cover the richness of American religious history from the colonial era to the present.
  • The Junto:  a group blog on early American history by historians based in North America and Britain.
  • Borealia:  a group blog on early Canadian history (First Nations/New France to Confederation, 1867)
  • The Way of Improvement Leads Home:  John Fea’s blog on early American history, American religious history, and early U.S. intellectual history.  Fea is apparently a man unafflicted by hunger, thirst, or the need to sleep, as he’s just published yet another book, and he has a podcast now, too!  (I am not worthy, but then, neither of most of you so we’re in good company.)
  • Notches:   A group blog on the history of sexuality, mostly European and North American.

Most of us who contribute to blogs like these have day jobs, or are madly finishing dissertations, or sometimes both.  It’s honest labor, and we do it because we love history and refuse to believe that it’s irrelevant for understanding the world as we have inherited it.  Peace, my sisters and brothers! Continue reading

The high price of moral principles: why you will not see me at The Huffington Post

Up on my hobbyhorse again!

Up on my hobbyhorse again!

UPDATED ALREADY!  See what happened below.

I was contacted by an editor at The Huffington Post this week about re-publishing the blog post I published after last week’s primary elections, “A revolution happened last night and no one noticed,” in which I commented on the ignoring or merely grudging acknowledgement of Hillary Clinton’s pathbreaking, historic achievements by journalists and commentators covering the 2016 election.  No woman of either major American political party has ever led in the primary delegate race or been selected as its running mate, and she’s totally owning states that overwhelmingly voted for her opponent in 2008, Barack Obama.  Considering the awesome weight of history against which Clinton is working, you’d think this would be the political story of the year–but no, it’s all Donald Drumpf, all the time, with his ground-baloney complexion and his Cheez-Wiz coiffure.

My regular readers probably don’t realize this, but that post brought this blog record traffic late last week and over the weekend, when someone posted it to some Facebook page somewhere.  (It was surprisingly popular in Great Britain Saturday morning Mountain time, for some reason–my peak traffic was at 3 a.m.!)  So far, it’s had nearly 38,000 page views, which is pretty huge for a blog that these days is lucky to get 1,000 clicks from 700-850 visitors a day.  Saturday, March 18 was my highest-traffic day ever in eight years, with 17,603 page views and 16,465 unique visitors. Continue reading

Make America Great Again? A smackdown on #VastEarlyAmerica


Joshua Piker, Editor, The William and Mary Quarterly

It’s an old-fashioned early American smackdown over at the Omohundro Institute blog:  William and Mary Quarterly editor Joshua Piker engages Gordon Wood’s critique of the journal–and the wider field of early American history and culture.  While waiting 11 months to respond to Wood’s comments is a rather leisurely pace for an online publication, Piker’s blog post suggests that waiting may have been a good thing.  In his comments on Wood’s vision for early American history, I see echoes of a contemporary political argument.

First, a reminder of Wood’s comments from last winter in The Weekly Standard:

Almost a year ago, . . Gordon Wood published a review of Bernard Bailyn’s Sometimes an Art: Nine Essays on History.  In this piece, Wood heaps praise on Bailyn and criticism on the field of early American history, including theQuarterly.  The review includes the following paragraph:

“For many [early Americanists], the United States is no longer the focus of interest. Under the influence of the burgeoning subject of Atlantic history, which Bailyn’s International Seminar on the Atlantic World greatly encouraged, the boundaries of the colonial period of America have become mushy and indistinct. The William and Mary Quarterly, the principal journal in early American history, now publishes articles on mestizos in 16th-century colonial Peru, patriarchal rule in post-revolutionary Montreal, the early life of Toussaint Louverture, and slaves in 16th-century Castile. The journal no longer concentrates exclusively on the origins of the United States. Without some kind of historical GPS, it is in danger of losing its way.”

Piker breaks down Wood’s cherry-picking like this: Continue reading

Social media: an irritant as well as balm for most intellectual property problems?

That chaps my a$$!

Chaps my a$$!

Kathleen L. Sheppard, a historian of archaeology who blogs at Adventures in History in Archaeology, reported on an interesting article she read at the online publication Broadly, a channel at on “The Forgotten Egyptologist and First Wave Feminist Who Invented Wicca,” Margaret Murray, by writer Sarah Waldron.  Sheppard was first excited that the subject of her book–the only book-length biography of Murray published in any language–was also the subject of a mainstream publication!

Sheppard’s heart sank as she realized that “the article is quite good.  But, to be honest, it is good because most of the work was done by me,” and uncredited in any fashion by the writer:

I saw the article, posted by a fellow Egyptologist on facebook.  I read it, excited to learn more about Murray’s work.  Maybe there was something in there that I could learn about her witchcraft studies.  As I read, I realized that I wasn’t learning anything new.  In fact, I was reading my own words, spit back at me, in an online article that was and is being enjoyed by thousands of people.  Some of my own phrases, and most definitely my unique analysis of Murray’s life and career, were there for thousands to see.  Usually, this makes me very happy.  Murray is still little-known outside of a small group of historians and Egyptologists even though she is central to the discipline.  I got to the end of the article and realized there were NO citations.  Not one.  I did a ctrl+F to search for my name, thinking I must have missed where I was mentioned in the article as Murray’s biographer and owner of many of the ideas therein.  Nothing.

Sheppard wasn’t interested in money–she just wanted due acknowledgement for her book and her unique intellectual contribution.  As she explained in the first blog post: Continue reading

“Scent of a Woman’s Ink” updated for a new generation with no good news

womanwritingThe title of this post refers to a 1998 essay by Francine Prose, “Scent of a Woman’s Ink:  Are Women Writers Really Inferior?”  Nearly twenty years later, the results aren’t encouraging for women.  Over at Jezebel, Catherine Nichols writes about sending out queries to agents for the same novel, with the same cover letter and writing sample, under both her real name and in the name of a male alter ego.  The results are even more depressing than you’d imagine (h/t Megan Kate Nelson for the RT that alerted me to this article):

The plan made me feel dishonest and creepy, so it took me a long time to send my novel out under a man’s name. But each time I read a study about unconscious bias, I got a little closer to trying it.

I set up a new e-mail address under a name—let’s say it was George Leyer, though it wasn’t—and left it empty. Weeks went by without word from the agents who had my work. I read another study about how people rate job applicants they believe are female and how much better they like those they believe are male.

Her hit ratio as Catherine was two requests to see the whole manuscript out of fifty queries, so 1:25 positive requests.  As George, her hit ratio was 17:50.  Nichols concludes that he is “eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book. Fully a third of the agents who saw his query wanted to see more, where my numbers never did shift from one in 25.”

Who was is brilliant new writer, George Leyer, and when can we read his brilliant novel? Continue reading

Crossing over, part III: The uses and limits of literary models


Mary with Laura holding Susan. Illustration by Garth Williams, Little House in the Big Woods, 1932

Today’s post is an unanticipated part III in my series Crossing Over, on writing and publishing an academic book that aims to be a “crossover” title with a popular audience.  Part I can be found here, “What is my book about?”, and Part II here, “Will I ever publish this book?”  Many thanks to those of you in the comments on those posts who encouraged me to write a Part III.  I hope to hear from the rest of you as to the writers and titles you see as your historical and literary models.

One of the challenges in writing The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright (Yale University Press, forthcoming 2016) was the fact that her life is very eventful early in childhood and adolescence, and then again in old age–a reversal of most biographies, which tend to focus on the adult years of a subject’s life, and offer only scant attention to their youths and their decline in old age.  But while her childhood was very eventful–taken captive at age 7, brought to New France at age 12, and announced her intention to become a nun at age 14–most of it before she enters the Ursuline convent as a student at age 12 is only very lightly documented.

How does one write the history of an eighteenth-century childhood, especially one almost entirely undocumented?  Although I was powerfully influenced by the historians I’ve been reading all my professional life, especially those who have focused on telling the story of a single life, I saw this as more of a literary problem than a historical one.  That is, I knew what I could do as a historian–I just didn’t know how I could bring it all together.  Or, as I wrote in part I of the Crossing Over series a few weeks ago: Continue reading