History Carnival #22

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Welcome to History Carnival #22, the final edition of 2005. I’m deeply grateful to Sharon Howard for starting this whole thing off eleven months ago, and take some pride in the only other person (besides herself, for the time being) to host this carnival twice. (oops. see comments)

In the past I’ve inflicted some odd arrangements on carnivals which I’ve hosted. This time I’ll try to be reasonably clear and straightforward, not least because I, like so many of you, am still in the middle of grading final exams and papers. Since we can all use some comic relief and light reading at this point…


My vote for funniest story of the fortnight is eb’s retelling of the wine cache discovered in the process of building a high-speed rail in France, and the distinctly French solution to the problem. It also highlights a very real issue: people hide things, which can make doing history a great challenge.

There’s a few bloggers out there reproducing ancient humor for us: Mutant Frog pointed me to translations of Roman graffiti which make you wish that modern graffiti “artists” paid more attention to content that style. Philip Harland has begun (Thank You!) a series of translated ancient jokes that’s gotta find its way into my lectures somehow. It’s not ancient (to us; our students might feel differently) but the reposting of Woody Guthrie’s Great Historical Bum, includes a link to a great digitized primary source version (as well as links to alternate versions which illustrate what Pete Seeger called the “folk process.”) which could make for nice lecture fodder, too.

As if humor itself weren’t enough, historians are actually pretty funny, too. Check out the debate over Gerbarians, “the proto-Germanic, pseudo-tribal, demi-migrants formerly known as barbarians” and the comments on textbooks and scholars. And, in a fine display of cliometric skill produced without further comment, it is proven that US Turkeys are getting bigger. We needed to know that. Now we need research on US ovens….

And, when you can’t find anything funny, make something up: The Archaeological Anomalies contest has a small but very high quality group of entrants, some of which require more than a glance to understand. And Mark Rayner continues his Lost PowerPoint Slides Series with the Elizabethan Edition. Francis Bacon’s my favorite.

Popular Culture

Do we have to talk about TV biopics of John Paul II, the “medieval appeal” of Harry Potter (isn’t it enough we work in the last bastion of medievalism in the modern world?), Memoirs of a Geisha, Mel Gibson projects, and ninja?

Yes, we must.

But sometimes we can talk about good historical fiction or beautiful 17c books or surprisingly feminist popular Victorian authors or fine exhibits of women’s European and Asian art.

This Time of Year

Lew Rockwell connects the “Save Christmas” crew to the Blue Law Puritans, and it’s not a comfortable pairing. If Santa Claus is indeed a deity or demigod, he has to knock or otherwise be invited in; that’s why you open the flue and put out cookies, I guess….

On less pleasant anniversary notes, December 7 was the 64th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and we still haven’t made peace with it. It’s been 25 years since John Lennon’s death. December 21st (Solstice!) will be the 140th anniversary of Sherman’s entry into Savannah (that’s got some interesting contemporary parallels, too)


Just because we came out of Africa doesn’t mean that we were forced out. Just because we came out of Africa doesn’t mean that we came out of a single ancestor.

Surprising Sources

As always, the real fun is in the primary sources. The Elfin Ethicist discovered that the South was surprisingly sympathetic to Native Americans though also deeply racist. Eric Muller went into the National Archives and came out with thought-provoking materials (nicely scanned) related to both the internment of Japanese Americans but also US official attitudes towards the Holocaust.

Natalie Bennett’s diary blogger visits Germany and dishes dirt. Sometimes it’s what you find, sometimes it’s what you make of it: an archaeological dispute over Roman Slavery gets a good look here. And Eric Rauchway shares some of the materials his uses to teach the history of lynching.


In the “I don’t know what else to do with these, but I can’t leave them out because they’re too good” category:

  • Blaming the Middle East on William Gladstone by way of the Trotskyites
  • First notes towards a History of Swimming in Early Modern Europe.
  • A meditation on technology and history which includes a line I’ll have to use again: “It is the crucible of free will, and hence, of responsibility.”


Yes, genocide is difficult to talk about. But one thing that bloggers seem to largely agree on is that talking about it should be legal in Europe and in Turkey. How do you respond, though, to those who deny the historical reality of great atrocities? with good sources and with every legal remedy available that doesn’t seriously infringe on free speech. Even if genocide is not the issue, colonialism and its legacies is also a matter for responsible historians, not politicians.

A few gross errors were noted in the historical blogosphere:

A very unscientific survey of obituaries Richard Pryor, Eugene McCarthy,
Robert Sheckley.

And the last Routemaster buses in London, the ones with the platform you can hop on and off, have finished their runs.

Meta-Blogging and Meta-History

Sharon Howard attempts to define blogging and I turn in my personnel file. Meanwhile, a great, if oft-repeated, debate broke out about the judgments of History and historians of the future on the present administration. From Caleb McDaniel to eb to Alan Baumler: curiously, or not so curiously, none of them has been convinced by the discussion to give up on contemporary commentary or blogging. Yay!

Finally, a few theoretical and historiographical musings:

Not Enough?
Since the last History Carnival, two of the finest specialty carnivals have been published: Carnivalesque XI and Asian History Carnival #2. Also, Caleb McDaniel is looking for on-line history resources: help him out!

Special Thanks to Natalie Bennett, Alun Salt, Sharon Howard, and Orac for their assistance (Any errors of interpretation or presentation are my own; no warranty on the posts to which I link), and, after a New Years’ hiatus (but never fear, the Cliopatria Awards will be announced in the interim), the next host on 15 January will be Rob MacDougall at Old is the New New, electromail[at]robmacdougall[dot]org


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