History? Who likes history here?

Discussion in 'Education and Academia' started by KateHolzDoKunoichi, Sep 15, 2004.

  1. Robert25

    Robert25 New Member

    Jun 1, 2004
    Los Angeles
    The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire can be a compelling read though. I got to agree the sections on the Byzantine empire are less noteworthy. But true study and research on the Byzantine empire has always been filled with trouble. Some Historians refused to consider them anything more that the eastern fragment of the Roman Empire when really their entire society and culture grew into its own and was only distantly connect with Rome after a while.
     
  2. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    I'd argue McCullough's books on Rome are a much more compelling read. Gibbon won't really contribute much to an academic understand of the Empire. His main points have also been conclusively disproved.

    Byzantine historiography is very problematic because of sources. Thanks to the wonderful actions of the Church, far too many canonical tracts have been purposely destroyed, and that's where much of history was written. Its pathetic that we don't even have a single copy of a pro-iconoclasm text, and have to rely on iconodule polemics.
    That being said, it doesn't excuse Gibbon's attitude towars the Byzantine Empire. It was a highly complex institution that was certainly different from Rome, because it ceased to be truly Roman Empire after Romulus Augustulus was deposed. Gibbon wasn't interested in it, and made some pretty baseless assumptions/observations.
     
  3. MikeLastort2

    MikeLastort2 Member

    Mar 28, 2002
    Takoma Park, MD
    I'll have to pick that up. I loved his "A History Of Venice."
     
  4. MikeLastort2

    MikeLastort2 Member

    Mar 28, 2002
    Takoma Park, MD
    I love her Rome books. I didn't mention them originally because they are historical fiction. Incredibly well-researched historical fiction, but fiction nonetheless. One of the greatest things about her books is that, for me at least, she brought all the people she wrote about to life. Marius, Sulla, Cicero, Pompey, Ceasar, all of them, become living breathing entities in the "Masters Of Rome" series.

    Compelling doesn't come close to describing the series to me.
     
  5. nicodemus

    nicodemus Member+

    Sep 3, 2001
    Cidade Mágica
    Club:
    PAOK Saloniki
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    When you say Church, are you referring to Orthodox or Roman Catholic or both? I know they were still one during the iconoclastic controversy, but they still largely operated seperately and were certainly seperated by language and culture at that point even if eccesiastically united.

    I would think many of the iconoclastic texts would have be in Arabic, not Latin or Greek.
     
  6. MikeLastort2

    MikeLastort2 Member

    Mar 28, 2002
    Takoma Park, MD
    Both did their share of destoying and supressing texts that were at odds with official church doctrine.

    As for languages, I'd say all of the above and add Aramaic to the list.
     
  7. DoctorD

    DoctorD Member+

    Sep 29, 2002
    MidAtlantic
    Club:
    Philadelphia Union
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Needs, I'm very interested in history, but didn't major or minor in it. I currently own over 40 history books ranging in periods from pre-Christian Ireland to early 20th cent US. If it helps, my favorite "reads" are Steven Ozment "The Age of Reform", O'Neill's "Plagues and Peoples" and Dawson's "The Making of Europe".

    How do I choose a book? First is to have some interest in a particular period. Then I just pick out something that looks interesting and where the author has some reasonable creditentials. Then after reading it, I'll make up my mind as to whether the author has supported his arguments with consistency.

    Among disappointments were Barbara Tuchman's book on the Black plague where she heavyhandedly tried to compare it to nuclear destruction. Also Robin Lane Fox always almost advances a thesis, then backs away into a morass of qualifying statements. If the author is a good writer then I'll be liekly to buy another by him.

    Borders overall in the last 6 months has dumbed down in all areas of their offering. They no longer can be counted on to offer books in any field that pique my interest.

    Call me a formalist, but the subjects you were looking for sound like the academic vogue du jour. I doubt many of the general public are too interested in it, or are so close to the topic that they really don't want to be reminded of it. For example, who outside the 10% (or is it 5%) of gay Americans are going to search out a book on the Gay Rights movement?
     
  8. Hard Karl

    Hard Karl New Member

    Sep 3, 2002
    WB05 Compound
    I'm majoring in it. My interest is Latin American history with a focus on Brazil.
     
  9. needs

    needs Member

    Jan 16, 2003
    Brooklyn
    I don't really know what it means to talk about books as 'vogue du jour.' Are the books I was looking for centrally concerned with the historical construction of race, class, cities, sexualities etc.? Sure, but that's what serious US historians have worked on for the past 40 years. They write about these topics not because of trendiness (that would be people in American Studies departments :) ), but because of a deep belief that the historical development of these categories is vitally important to understand the nation's historical development and present day problems.

    Take George Chauncey's book, Gay New York, which is probably the most celebrated work of American historical scholarship of the last 10 years. Is it celebrated because it's about gay people? No. It's celebrated for two main reasons, both to do with the ways in which it causes us to rethink the past and therefore rethink the present. First, it uncovers a fairly open gay lifestyle in turn of the century New York (and his ability as a researcher is simply amazing), challenging the idea that open gay life is something that occurred only post-Stonewall, leading us to look at 'the closet' as a historical creation rather than a timeless belief. Second, it fairly convincingly argues for a very different organization of male sexuality in the late 19th century, in which action within sex rather than who you had sex with was the main factor in sexual identity. This leads to the conclusion that both homosexuality (as in exclusive man-man sexual pairings) and heterosexuality are creations of the late 19th century. Much like the other books I was looking for, this is a historical work that fundamentally challenges the way we think about the present day United States.

    I do think you point to a yawning gulf between what some of the general public looks for in history and what professional historians do. But I also believe that there is a portion of the public who reads fairly serious works of sociology and political science (when they leave the numbers out) who would read serious history, but it's certainly not on the shelves of the history section. Maybe the books I'm looking for have been shunted off to gender studies, Af-Am studies, and sociology sections. If so, I think that's a problem.
     
  10. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    Somewhat, although the churches were more linked than you think. The majority of Western Christian dogma was produced by North Africa until its conquest by the Arabs, and North Africa was certainly in Constantinople's sphere of influence. Also, until Pepin and Charlemagne, the Pope relied on the Empire's military assistance to maintain his political position, and it was not incredibly uncommon for the Exarch in Ravenna to depose one of the Popes, who were largely Roman aristocrats anyway. So there was considerably more unity, especially since the Roman church's sway over the Franks and especially Visigoths was tenuous.
    Come to think of it, I'm not sure that the Visigoths ever adopted Catholicism as opposed to Arianism. Or if they did, they may have done so late. Of course, the Moops took care of those considerations.

    Well, we have some of the Arabic iconoclast texts, but that doesn't help us figure out quite how they were worked into the Christian canonical tradition. We know that they were, and were largely supported by the Asian themes. Almost none of the texts would be in Latin, I would expect, btw. What results is trying to figure out Kerry's policy stances by watching Bush's negative ads.
     
  11. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    This is technically a history discussion, so I'd prefer not to be distracted. ;)
    I do have to say that her discussion regarding the Pro Rabirio made me like her work a lot more.
     
  12. bigredfutbol

    bigredfutbol Moderator
    Staff Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Woodbridge, VA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Good to know--I'm planning on reading that, although it may have to wait until after this semester is over.
     
  13. Lockjaw

    Lockjaw BigSoccer Supporter

    Sep 8, 2004
    Kaiserslautern
    Club:
    Real Madrid
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I find McCullogh's books of very uneven quality. At times compelling, but she can also be very dull. And she is far too laudatory torward Julius Ceasar, you won't find a negative word against him in any book. Having said that, I find the comments on books at Amazon.com delightful. You can find great analysis of a book before you decide to read it.
     
  14. nicephoras

    nicephoras A very stable genius

    Jul 22, 2001
    Eastern Seaboard
    The quality of the books definitely decreases as the series goes on, yes. Too much Caesar. However, what you cal dull, I probably find most fascinating. :)
     
  15. needs

    needs Member

    Jan 16, 2003
    Brooklyn
    I just taught a really good book on the environmental effects of suburbanization. Adam Rome's The Bulldozer in the Countryside. It's an interesting book in that he traces a lot of the in vogue sustainability/urban planning thought today back to the 40s and 50s (solar homes, cluster development, changing zoning regulation) and argues that they were trumped by the demands for mass housing construction. It also argues that people's experiences of witnessing land transformation and the environmental problems of suburbia (overflowing septic fields, ground water contamination, landslides, etc) help explain why the environmental movement gained momentum in the late 60s/early 70s.

    Very interesting and well written history, if pretty depressing on the potential for meaningful regulation of suburban development/sustainable design. Far superior to the anti-suburban screeds of someone like James Kuntsler.
     
  16. Megatron

    Megatron New Member

    Jul 4, 2002
    Chicago
    I like history it's my major, my favorite kind of history is European history more specifically Medieval European history.
     
  17. DoctorD

    DoctorD Member+

    Sep 29, 2002
    MidAtlantic
    Club:
    Philadelphia Union
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Needs, here's a thesis for free. Does American sprawl reflect the absence of any city-destroying events in the US? What I mean is that US cities have possibly sustained the longest period of stability ever encountered in European civilization: no wars; no fires; no major epidemics. Without any events to "purge" the city, it became increasingly undesirable to live there and people moved out.

    The last major city-destroying event I can think of is the 1906 SF earthquake.

    Megatron - have you read Inventing the Middle Ages by Cantor? Not the greatest of books and pretty self-serving actually, but an interesting perspective on historiography.
     
  18. nicodemus

    nicodemus Member+

    Sep 3, 2001
    Cidade Mágica
    Club:
    PAOK Saloniki
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    just got this in the mail today, can't wait to get into it....

    [​IMG]
     
  19. needs

    needs Member

    Jan 16, 2003
    Brooklyn
    I think suburbanization happened the way it did in the US for two main reasons:

    -federal incentives in postwar America that placed an enormous premium on new home construction after 15 years of Depression induced housing shortage (federally guaranteed mortgages, GI Bill, extension of normal mortgage terms from 5 to 30 years). With the racial restrictions that the federal gov't placed on these mortgages, suburban development exacerbated existing segregationist trends.

    -the application of mass production techniques to home manufacturing and construction (along with this mass production requiring "empty" land)
     
  20. Pauncho

    Pauncho Member+

    Mar 2, 1999
    Bexley, Ohio
    Club:
    Columbus Crew
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Several years ago, my family vacationed in the Pacific Northwest. We visited a museum in Victoria, British Columbia, which had an exhibit about how British Columbia came to be part of the Canadian Confederation in 1867. It explained that most of the leading local businessmen were Americans who initially thought they wanted to become part of the United States, but then when the U.S. bought Alaska from the Russkies and the eastern part of Canada offered a deal where they'd build a railroad all the way across the continent and assume some debts, the deal was sealed for BC to become part of Canada. That got me to thinking about how many of the serious political questions of North America got resolved right after the American Civil War: the Canadian Confederation was formed, Maximillian was tossed out of Mexico, we bought Alaska, and the harshness of Reconstruction was set.

    Was this Seward and/or Johnson? How much depended on the railroad building? Were all of these things ripe to happen inevitably, just as soon as the unpleasantry between North and South got resolved (and I don't just mean the shooting), anyway?

    Better question, history buffs: anyone know of a really good book on this topic?
     
  21. needs

    needs Member

    Jan 16, 2003
    Brooklyn
    The best book I know about the geographic formation of North America is D.W. Meinig's Shaping of America, Continental America, 1800-1867. Meinig's a historical geographer and provides an interesting look at how expansion took place amidst a bunch of concerns about imperial rivalry, conflicts between national cores and peripheries, economic imperatives, etc, within the US, Mexico, and Canada. A warning however, it's a beast, very wide ranging, but about 500 big pages (it does have some of the coolest maps I've ever seen, with a bunch of different "possible Americas" had certain negotiations or conflicts worked out differently.)

    You're obviously correct to point to the Civil War as the key 19th century event that allowed these national conflicts to be settled. Pre-civil war, any type of national expansion was read through the sectional conflict. It's the reason no continental railroad bill could pass, the sectionally divided Congress couldn't settle where it would go, and the very notion of the federal gov't pushing national unification offended most Southern pols (this is why the homestead act, the continental rr act, etc get passed in 1863). Reconstruction can be seen as the attempt to create a similar program of nationally driven industrial development in the South at the same time freedmen's rights were protected.

    If you're interested in how the rr changed America, William Cronon's Nature's Metropolis is an amazing book.
     
  22. DoctorJones24

    DoctorJones24 Member

    Aug 26, 1999
    OH
    Interesting thread.

    I'm probably a bit like Dr. Wankler, though less well read, in regards to dipping into history. Coming at it from lit studies, I tended initially to branch into it as new historicism pretty much took over everything in the 90s. One of my favorite projects in grad school was researching early accounts of race relations in Hakluyt's Voyages as a lense through which to read Othello.

    On the other hand, I was a fairly weak historian, as evidenced by my fat B- in Feminism when I wrote a really meandering and near thesis-less essay on the Salem witch trials. In retrospect, it's clear that I chose that topic (instead of a more literary one) merely because I had friends living in Salem at the time (next door to the real House of Seven Gables, btw), and I loved having the excuse to go up and visit every weekend--great little town for pubs. At the end of the semester, I had drunk many many pints at the bar The Witches Brew, but hadn't done a lick of serious research.


    Recently, I've been deep into South Asian history as I was working on my diss. on literary representations of partition. Thus the archival work of Mushirul Hassan has been hugely influential for me, as has been the work of Subaltern studies folks like Partha Chatterjee.

    Still, as a non-specialist, I would say I prefer the sort of pop-history aimed at the broader audience. John Keay's "India: A History" is a fascinating and sweeping account of mostly ancient Indian history, for instance, especially some early chapters that are as much about the histoigraphy of early India (the Harrapan civilization in particular) as it is about the history itself. It brings in some useful interdisciplinary material (architecture and anthropology, mostly) to fill in previously huge gaps in the record. Anyway, that's one that I jut happened to pick up at a great little bookstore in the Pittsburgh airport.

    I also bought this one a month or two ago, and plan to finally get around to it this week: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/t...002-3722026-8159247?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
     
  23. Megatron

    Megatron New Member

    Jul 4, 2002
    Chicago
    No I haven't but I'll try to get my hands on it and take a look.Thanks
     
  24. 1953 4-2-4

    1953 4-2-4 Red Card

    Jan 11, 2004
    Cleveland
    Ditto. Taught, hated it. Now in publishing/research.

    As far as history writing--Bill Bryson is perhaps the most entertaining writer today, though, I guess he is classified more as a "travel writer." He writes about histories of places he goes--digging up the most curious facts of said destination. Good light reading though.
     
  25. Canadian_Supporter

    Staff Member

    Dec 20, 1999
    Prostějov, CR
    Club:
    --other--
    Nat'l Team:
    --other--
    How true. I have a BA in History and now I am working as a social worker. Not making a lot of money, but it is something that I want to do with my life.
     

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