Archive | April 2012

Yet more on academic publishing

I’m making last-minute preparations before I head off to England for a month (will be back in June). I don’t know how much I’ll post when I’m there – I’ll be extremely busy going through the libraries/archives at Oxford, Cambridge and the British Library. I do have a few posts scheduled to go out over the next week or two, so keep an eye on the blog. If you haven’t already, now’s a good time to sign up for the RSS feed.

In unrelated news, open-access seems to be picking up momentum in academia. Now Harvard’s faculty advisory council is warning that even Harvard can’t afford current journal subscription costs – their journal subscription costs now total $3.5 million per year and increase every year. The report mentions the usual abuses: providers bundling useful with many more less-used journals and thus charging a much higher price, 100%+ inflation rate for subscription costs, secret contract terms (don’t want different libraries comparing prices!), publisher profit margins of 35% for scholarship written by academics (whose research is usually funded with tax-payer-supported salaries and grants), peer-reviewed by other academics, and purchased for and read by other academics (the academic gift economy). Not to mention that with the e-versions you are only renting access to the journal; the library does not own a copy.

They also encourage the usual solutions: publishing in open-source journals, scholars resigning from editorial boards of journals that refuse to moderate their prices, insisting of different subscription models… If Harvard scholars start abandoning the journals, perhaps others will be empowered to do so as well.

Stay tuned…

Suggestions for seeing Early Modern history in England

In about 1.5 weeks I’ll be on my way to a conference in Oxford (“Louis XIV Outside In“), combined with a month-long research jaunt at Oxford, Cambridge and in London. I have plenty of archival volumes to consult, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to query you all about your favorite early modern military ‘things’ to see in southern England. I only spent a few weeks in London during my dissertating phase (kinda like the pupal stage), so I didn’t have too much time to see much other than the National Army Museum.

So what should someone interested in EMEMH check out when they’re in England? One could obviously name the various museums, and obviously I’ll be checking out Blenheim Palace, but what I’m particularly interested in are specific items to be on the lookout for, not just a listing of various museums. For example, ‘the National Army Museum has a really cool ____’, or ‘there is an interesting example of early modern architecture at ____’, paintings or statues or reliefs of early modern rulers/generals (particularly equestrian or military), city gates, early modern memorials, walls which famous generals pissed on…

A few examples from past trips, just to give you an idea of the specificity I’m hoping to get:

  • Cannonballs (fired by the British during their bombardment) hanging in a Copenhagen church (Sankt Peter’s).
  • An early modern grenade-launcher attached to a carbine in Copenhagen’s Arsenal.
  • Plans-relief of northern French fortresses in the basement of Lille’s Palais des Beaux Arts.
  • Incongruous city gates towering in the middle of Paris (Portes de Saint-Martin and Saint-Denis).


If you want to mention other interesting items outside of England, that’s ok too. If there’s interest, we could probably do a series, a country a month or something…

Olaf van Nimwegen on Dutch logistics

Edwin reminded me that Olaf van Nimwegen’s book on Allied logistics in the Low Countries during the War of the Spanish Succession has a lengthy English summary. So I’ve taken the liberty of posting it here, so that non-Dutch readers can see what they’re missing, and maybe it’ll encourage Olaf to get the book translated into English. The transcription is a quick-‘n-dirty OCR, so there may be a few formatting errors.

Olaf van Nimwegen, De subsistentie van het leger: Logistiek en strategie van het Geallieerde en met name het Staatse leger tijdens de Spaanse Successieoorlog in de Nederlanden en het Heilige Roomse Rijk (1701-1712), (Amsterdam: De Bataafsche Leeuw, 1995), 339-344. Read More…

New e-book source

Just got back from a conference on successful strategies that I’ll talk about in the future, but I also just discovered a new source for those rare old books that aren’t available on Google Books/EEBO/ECCO/Gallica that you’ve been searching for over the past decade with no luck.

The website is, eBooks on demand. It currently consists of 30 European libraries combining their catalogs, and offering to sell digital (and/or print) copies of their holdings for a price. It looks like each library sets its own price, usually a flat fee plus an additional rate per page. I ordered a quite rare book last week, and the other day I received the pdf (you download it from their website).

To assuage any concerns you might have about the quality of the product, here’s a page of the book that I ordered from the Czech National Technical Library:

Title page of scanned book from eBooks on demand

This book was short, about 100 pages, so the cost was a moderate 652 Czech koruna, which I hope means only $35 or so.

So if you need that one very special book but can’t get to the library(-ies) where it’s held, this is another option. It especially works well if the book you want is a long book that would require a lot of time consulting in a reading room.

Viva la Revolución!

Don’t believe everything you see in the movies

For those of you who might still be confused about how logistics worked, Hollywood is not the place to find the answers. But then again, is it ever?

From Woody Allen’s Bananas!

Read between the lines!

For years I’ve been frustrated with the blatant Anglo-centric tone of almost all of the writing on the Duke of Marlborough, England’s “Greatest General.” I don’t think I need to mention that this writing is all in English, often written by former military professionals, and never looks at Dutch sources yet manages to savage them without mercy as ‘obstructionist’ allies.

I vented about this lazy tendency in my 2000 article on Ramillies, but I keep finding more and more examples of it. What’s even worse, the same over-the-top praise of Marlborough being a master tactician, master operational mind, master strategist, master logistician, master diplomat, master politician (okay, maybe not the last one so much) keeps getting repeated everywhere despite a number of important correctives – many of which are quite old, such as the works of Douglas Coombs and A.J. Veenendaal, Sr.

I feel, appropriately enough, like that little Dutch boy sticking his finger in the dyke, except the dyke is awfully leaky and I don’t have enough fingers.

Hans Brinker, Madurodam (Wikipedia)

(This frustration only gets reinforced when John Stapleton and I start talking, since he was also at Ohio State working on a similar topic – the Dutch in the 9YW – and finding the same thing at the same time I was).

Read More…

The War continues

Another volley in the continuing legal skirmish between publishers and open-access educational materials. Now Pearson, Cengage and Macmillan are suing Boundless Learning for infringing their copyright by organizing their free textbooks (Econ, Psych and Biology) in a similar manner to the the publishers’ texts, possibly using similar features and illustrations, and specifically recommending them as free alternatives to the publishers’ texts.

I’m not qualified to judge the merits of the lawsuit, and I want to avoid reflexively rooting for Boundless Learning – it’s for-profit from what I can tell and they may be trying to mimic the pages of the other texts, presumably to sync up with assigned pages. But more broadly, if publishers can claim financial harm because others are making competing textbooks that follow the standard pedagogy of a discipline (which these publishers/authors did NOT create on their own), we’re in a world of hurt. Can the makers of a free version of a Western Civ textbook be sued because they create a book with separate chapters for the Ancient Near East (including an excerpt of Hammurabi’s Code and a photo of the pyramids), Greece (Plato excerpt and photo of Parthenon), Rome (Pliny and map of greatest extend of Empire), the Middle Ages (Crusades account and photo of medieval crucifix) and the Renaissance (Pico della Mirandola and a Da Vinci), put them in chronological order, and include maps of the various empires and timelines? Who exactly owns the copyright to that?

Story and comments at Inside Higher Ed: and at Chronicle of Higher Ed:

Reminder to self: Don’t use Pearson, Cengage and Macmillan texts in my classes.

My textbook order is now due for the fall semester, and I’m trying to minimize the purchased texts as much as possible, replacing them with online material (primary sources mostly) from Google Books and elsewhere. Plus I make my timelines and maps to give the students some reference materials as well. In fact, Wikipedia has some of the best historical maps I’ve seen for specific early modern periods, especially if you look at the non-English sites for their own histories (e.g. the Spanish-language Wikipedia for Spanish history).


Latest Journal of Military History

For those early modernists yet to receive your April 2012 issue of the JMilH, there are a few pieces worth mentioning.

First up: Probasco, Nate, “The Role of Commoners and Print in Elizabeth England’s Acceptance of Firearms,” Journal of Military History 76 (April 2012): 343-372.

Even though commoners comprised the great majority of Elizabethan England’s fighting men, their role in the nation’s transition into the firearms age remains unclear. Common citizens and local officials generally protested the costs and dangers of firearms, and when they did purchase them, they often transgressed Elizabethan weapons statutes. The debate over firearms also played out in print, and many gun advocates relied upon dubious information to promote them, which, along with governmental backing, allowed guns to overtake longbows. Firearms became established among the populace, however, only after they agreed to accept the new technology due to an impending Spanish invasion.

[Sounds interesting, adding to the argument that the adoption of military technology requires an examination of the social context.]

Second: Parker, Geoffrey. “A Soldier of Fortune in Seventeenth Century Eastern Europe.” Journal of Military History 76 (2012): 545-548.

[A review essay summarizing the first two volumes of an English translation of the Scottish mercenary Patrick Gordon’s career in Russian service: Fedosov, Dmitry, ed., Diary of General Patrick Gordon of Auchleuchries 1635-1699. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 2009-2010. The remaining two volumes will eventually be published in English. Excerpts from a faulty version were published in 1859 as Passages from the Diary of General Patrick Gordon, and reprinted by Da Capo in 1968.]

On a tangential note, and to my fellow early modern European military historians in the academic world particularly: WTF? I can’t attend the upcoming Society for Military History annual conference this year because I’ll be in England, and there isn’t a single panel on early modern military history at the conference??? Kudos to Sheldon Clare for presenting a paper on the siege of Landau 1704 (which Sheldon is free to post up here if he wants additional feedback from our readers), but really, why can’t we EMEMHians get our act together? I could understand if there had been a conspiracy against EMEMH by the SMH conference committee, but I doubt it, since last year we had at least three panels on the period. We EMEMHians really need to raise the visibility of our subfield which equates into greater activity – we are far outnumbered by even the Ancient and Medieval military historians. That’s a sad statement of how little we manage to publish and present. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t published with great frequency, but surely there are enough of us to have at least one panel every year at the SMH? Otherwise, it’s a crap shoot as to whether one should even attend the SMH, if there won’t even be any other early modernists there.

Thoughts as to how to improve our little corner of the field would be appreciated. I’m more than happy to have this blog play any role it can. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I started it. Perhaps this blog might have to host its own online ‘conference’ for EMEMH.

Financing War

I just caught up with the comments, and as I was trying to make sense of patronage and war finance in a long reply to Erik, I had somewhat of an epiphany, or more accurately, making a connection between two different parts of the whole. I probably should have made this connection far earlier, and undoubtedly others already have, and I’ve probably already read this somewhere else, but academic research often consists of making connections between various bits of once-read information in different contexts. And it usually comes at its own pace.

The question deals with the upper echelons of war finance, i.e. where the governments get all that money to fight. Ultimately it’s based on taxes and other revenue streams, but to get those resources in the short term requires some kind of government debt. Patronage has often been used in this context, with rulers and wealthy financiers using each other to get upfront cash in exchange for longer-term interest payments, and possibly the purchase of social capital. But since even bankrupt rulers always seemed able to secure additional lines of credit (and not just from extending the terms of existing creditors), I wonder what exactly patronage means as far an increased willingness of creditor clients to loan money to their ruler patrons.

While I don’t have a pat answer to that question, what I did realize, however, is that the whole point of creating hybrid private-public institutions like the Bank of Amsterdam (1609) and the Bank of England (1694) is to make it easier for governments to avoid relying solely on patronage networks to borrow money. With a public debt, ministers no longer had to rely only on the big fish creditors (which they continued to do, no doubt). Now they could mobilize the wealth of their subjects further down the socio-economic ladder, as individual investors could easily purchase stock in these private-public partnerships from the Bank, as well as purchasing government debt in the form of annuities and lotteries. This means less work was needed creating, maintaining, and expanding networks among the wealthy, or, more likely, that even more money could be raised by the government by supplementing the normal financial patronage sources with this new public credit.

France lacked such a mechanism to easily mobilize its entire society’s capital. As a result, Louis XIV had to keep working his financiers and tax farmers for more credit every year, his new finance minister Desmaretz had to use ridiculous expedients to shore up France’s finances in 1708 (see McCollim’s forthcoming book), and Louis had to issue a personal appeal to his nobles and subjects in 1709 to melt down their silver plate and otherwise contribute to the war effort. In fact, France would not establish its own public bank until Napoleon, putting itself at a significant fiscal disadvantage in its many wars with 18C Britain. On the other hand, the English had already made patriotic investment in the war effort as simple and as impersonal as purchasing shares in a company like the East Indies or South Sea company (government debt was frequently converted into such shares), or stock in the Bank of England, or buying a lottery ticket. An example from the Post Boy newspaper indicates how widely the government wanted its message spread: Anyone is welcome to invest in the government!

Get your lottery ticket here!

Lottery explained

£10 buys you a piece of victory! These lotteries were usually fully subscribed because of their favorable terms, which is an indication of an increasing desperation on the part of the government issuing them. But it wasn’t nearly as desperate as Louis appealing to his nobles to turn in their silver.

Nothing revolutionary, just another piece of the puzzle falling into place for me.

The Advantages of the Society of the Cincinnati

I’m back after almost a week away, mostly in Washington D.C., where I spent two days at the always-wonderful Society of the Cincinnati (SoC) library. I’ve mentioned it before, but it deserves a bit more attention. The SoC has a number of fellowships to defray the costs of short-term research trips – the deadline is usually in November and I’ll try to remind everyone on the blog as it approaches.

But why bother traveling all the way to D.C. just to look at a few old books that you can get online? Nowadays we have oodles of digitized works available to us via Google Books, EEBO/ECCO and the like, and these have truly revolutionized historical research for EME particularly (thanks to the modern focus of copyright laws). So why bother? I’ll tell you why. A visit to a rare book collection will offer reminders that digitized texts are not the same as the physical objects, and these reading rooms offer some significant advantages.

First, there is no ‘staff’ to assist you with the digitized works available online – no helpful personnel to let you know of newly-acquired items, or how to tweak your catalog searches, or which of their holdings include manuscript marginalia by the owner, or even to place requests for new works (all of which the helpful staff at the SoC have provided for me).

Second, many digital copies are far from perfect. Personally, I can survive the occasional scanned condomed-finger in a Google Book, as long as the text is legible – heck, many of my pictures from the archives/library aren’t much better.

Unsafe Finger Reading - Wear a Condom!

More annoying, most digitized copies do not include the full illustrations and maps which were included in many works, especially fold-out maps and diagrams that are common in military histories and manuals. Here’s a too-common occurrence in a Google Books book that you’ve undoubtedly experienced yourself:


But now that an increasing number of rare book libraries are allowing photos (for personal research purposes, of course), you don’t need to scribble a version of a map/illustration in your notes, but can instead get a rough-and-ready photo for later perusal.

Third, despite Google’s scanning efforts (which are slowing down, by the way), there are still a fair number of early modern books that have not been digitized – the Society of the Cincinnati has a number of them, several of which were very useful in my Vauban book. And some of these inaccessible titles are purely a function of Google Books’ imperfect procedures. I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice that Google has decided that The Present State of Europe (an English language translation of the Europische Mercurius newspaper published from 1690) is public domain, except for the years 1704, 1710 and 1712, which it insists cannot be downloaded for fear of copyright infringement! I’ve made several attempts to get those years cleared, to no avail. And we haven’t even mentioned the millions of pages of manuscript sources still locked away in archives, as well as those acquired by libraries such as the SoC.

Fourth, various editions. As I’ve mentioned before, we can get lulled into a false sense of security once we download a copy of a book from Google Books/EEBO/ECCO/Gallica. I discovered this first hand at the SoC. I was ecstatic to discover a few weeks ago that Google Books had posted a copy of Courtilz de Sandras (under the alias Buisson), La conduite de mars, necessaire a tous ceux qui font profession des armes, ou qui ont dessein de s’y engager: autorisée d’exemples arrivés dans ces derniers temps: avec des memoires contenans divers évenemens remarquables arrivés pendant la guerre de ce temps, La Haye: Chez Henri van Bulderen, 1693. Since I’d never seen the work before and it was on my list of things to check out at the SoC, I assumed my work was done and crossed that title off my to-get list. Fortunately I noticed that the SoC had multiple editions of this work (under slightly different titles), including one published in 1711, so I thought I’d compare the editions just to be sure. What did I find as I compared all four SoC editions (1685, 1690, 1693, 1711) on the table in front of me? I discovered something rather odd: the 1693 edition has 18 chapters defining what makes a good soldier and officer, the 1685 edition has the same 18 chapters as the 1693 edition, but the 1690 edition has 44 chapters instead of a mere 18!* And these additional chapters were completely different from the first 18, and much more relevant to my current research project. Further, the 1711 edition also appended a Practice for Cannoniers at the end, yet another addendum that was lacking in the other editions. Had I been content with what Google Books provided me, I would have missed half of the fuller work. In short, a book with the same author and approximate title is the same as any other as far as Google is concerned, so it only bothers to scan one. The reality can be quite different. I’m not necessarily blaming Google for looking at the bottom line here, just that we need to recognize Google’s motives and how their practices influence what they provide us.

Fifth, specific individual copies of works might vary from one to the next. This is particularly true if you want to look at any stray marginal comments made by readers. Jardine and Grafton’s analysis of Gabriel Harvey’s copy of Livy is the best-known example of this – there is currently a project to scan and post online Harvey’s copy here. So if you want to look at General William Howe’s commentary on a mid-18C manual of field warfare, you’ll need to head to the SoC and nowhere else. Considering how little marginalia I’ve seen in EEBO/ECCO copies, I wouldn’t be surprised if their criteria for which copy to scan was based upon finding the cleanest (unmarked) copy possible. Which is fine, unless you want to know what readers thought about the work.

In short, digitization is revolutionizing EMEMH, but as with everything early modern, we need to keep the exceptions in the forefront of our mind. This means you should:

  • Assume that each copy of each edition in each library is a unique work. For many purposes it doesn’t make sense to track down each one, but if a particular author or title is key to your work, it’d probably be a good idea to look at as many copies and editions as you can.
  • Assume that a search of the English Short Title Catalogue/Google Books/EEBO/ECCO/Gallica is not a comprehensive listing of all publications (in fact, Morgan’s Bibliography on Queen Anne’s reign mentions numerous works that have no identifiable extant copies, or perhaps only one).
  • Avoid confusing absence of evidence with evidence of absence. For example, don’t claim that author X didn’t write about topic Y in title Z until after you’ve looked at all of the editions of title Z. This is what scholars (usually of a literary bent) do when compiling scholarly editions of texts.

* This does make one wonder how half of the book might have been missed in the 1685/1693 editions. I think the 1690 edition was published by a different publisher, which explains why the additional chapters weren’t included in the later 1693 edition. But it’s possible that this other publisher simply added some material from somewhere else under “Buisson’s” authorship. There are various ways to explain the variations from one edition to the next, but whether explaining it is important or not depends on your purpose. If you are studying Courtilz de Sandras (who himself wrote under various aliases and combined fictional and non-fictional accounts), it may matter. But if you are interested in what lessons readers drew from the work, it’s less of an issue (unless you are looking at the lessons drawn by a specific individual, in which case you need to know which edition they had access to).

P.S. Never fear, I shall return to forage. In fact, I found a few interesting tidbits at the SoC library that I might even share.

P.P.S. Remember that all the works mentioned in the posts can be found in the blog bibliography (link to the right).